A stage concept for the development of social relationships between unfamiliar individuals has been proposed by Kummer. This concept, originally derived from studies of Old World Primates, describes changes in developing relationships by types of interactive behaviour (fighting, presenting, mounting and grooming) that regularly occur in this sequence during the formation of dyads and triads. Kummer also formulated a set of rules predicting stage sequence, velocity, final stage, triadic and polyadic influences depending on individual status.
The present investigation describes stages in the formation of relationships of macropodoids as well. Typical behaviour patterns for the sequence are avoidance, social exploration, aggression, one-sided amicable behaviour, mutual amicable behaviour and in some species social play. Transition to new, especially nonaggressive stages, was found to be initiated by higher status animals. Duration, number of skipped stages, inversions (rare events!) and highest stage reached per dyad depend on the participants' status and triadic/polyadic influences, as predictable by Kummer's proposed rules.
A comparison of 3 species demonstrates the influence of socio-ecological factors that seem to be species-characteristic. The stages can thus be used to describe not only different qualities of individual relationships but also ‘social dispositions’ sensu Mason.