Intergenerational Program: All Family Members and Caregivers Welcome! From babies to Grandparents!

Hugs and Cuddles are Research-Based!

February 9, 2017 by in category Research-Based with 0 and 2

Dear Families,

One of the many reasons our program welcomes family members and caregivers of all age is the research–and commons sense of!–the importance of nonverbal communication, including caring, appropriate touch.   Warm and loving “appropriate touch” has many benefits, and communicates your care to others.  For young children, it has been found that without loving touch, children are deprived of the foundational elements that contribute to their lifelong emotional health and well -being as well as to their lifelong physical and cognitive health.  I hope you enjoy reading the following excerpts.  And go ahead and hug and cuddle your kids!

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition)

Hansen, Jacqueline. “The truth about teaching and touching.” Childhood Education, vol. 83, no. 3, 2007, p. 158+. Academic OneFile, Accessed 7 Feb. 2017.

Selected Excerpts from “The Truth about Teaching and Touching”:

“Emotional Benefits

Although touching is not an emotion in itself, appropriate touching behaviors evoke comfort, reassurance, and pleasure, and dispel negative feelings. Touching, therefore, contributes to the development of children’s sense of security and well-being. Intense, extensive touching behaviors help children develop a sophisticated body concept. Children who experience loving tactual experiences visualize themselves as warm, sensitive people (Burgoon & Saine, 1978; Montagu, 1971; Weiss, 1984)…

A lack of childhood tactile experience cripples people’s adult emotional growth, rendering them emotionally immobilized. Tactile deprivation may result in emotional indifference, estrangement, detachment, and shallowness. Moreover, emotionally deprived people are more susceptible to stress and disease, have higher morbidity and mortality rates, and are less developed physically and behaviorally (Fast, 1970; Montagu, 1971; Montagu & Matson, 1979).

Social Benefits

It is common in the United States to pinch cheeks, pat heads, and chuck chins to indicate affection towards children. Touching, even between non-intimates, is perceived as a gesture of affection. People touch one another to facilitate psychological and interpersonal closeness. Touching is an intrinsic part of developing the attachment bonds that are imperative to children’s normal social development. Mothers and their infants bond primarily through their shared tactile experiences. Babies learn to touch others and respond to others’ touch through interpersonal experiences and conditioning. Children begin by touching objects, then objects on people, then people. Children learn to use touch to establish friendly relationships, reduce social distances, and declare a level of intimacy (Blondis & Jackson, 1977; Burgoon & Saine, 1978; Montagu, 1971; Montagu, 1983; Reite, 1984)….

The quality of children’s tactual experiences influences their abilities to relate to others, to trust them, and to be sensitive to their needs. Touching is fundamental to children’s healthy social development. Conversely, a lack of touching results in a failure to establish close relationships. Positive touching experiences reassure people they are needed and valued (Burgoon & Saine, 1978; Montagu, 1971).

Intellectual Benefits

Children who have not experienced positive touching atrophy emotionally, socially, and intellectually. In the early 1990s, Romanian orphans experienced severe emotional and intellectual impairment after being left in their cribs for two years without much contact from others. When children are not touched frequently, their pituitary glands do not produce enough growth hormone, thus retarding their physical development. These children are unable to communicate socially, sexually, or nonverbally with other people. Once touch-deprived children’s emotional needs are met through touching, however, their deprivation dwarfism is reduced and they experience rapid growth spurts (Colt, 1997; Montagu & Matson, 1979)…..

Physical Benefits

Not only does positive touching promote emotional, social, and intellectual health, touching can literally be a matter of life and death. In the 13th century, German emperor Frederick II wanted to know what language children would speak if no one ever spoke to them. He chose several newborns and instructed the nurses to feed them, but provide no cuddling or talking. All of the babies died before they could talk (Colt, 1997).

The rate of infant mortality, or marasmus, among orphans often has reached incredible heights. In 1915, Dr. J.H.M. Knox stated that 90 percent of American orphans died. The 10 percent who survived had been removed from the orphanage for a brief period of time and placed in the care of foster parents or relatives (Montagu & Matson, 1979)….

After World War I, Dr. Fritz Talbot studied marasmus in German orphanages. He watched an elderly woman carry babies on her hip. One of the hospital workers said, “Oh, that is Old Anna. When we have done everything medically we can for a baby and it is still not doing well, we turn it over to Old Anna, and she is always successful” (Montagu & Matson, 1979, p. 114). An important lesson was learned. In the late 1920s, Dr. Joseph Brennemann mandated that orphanage workers were to hold, carry, and mother every baby several times daily. After that, infant mortality rates in orphanages fell to less than 10 percent by 1938 (Montagu & Matson, 1979; Montagu, 1971).

Not only did tactually deprived children die in orphanages, they also died in the best homes. Puritans avoided touching others in their interpersonal relationships. Mothers did not tactually stimulate their children, who, in turn, did not touch their children when they became parents. This behavior was passed on from generation to generation (Montagu, 1971).

Non-tactile behavior became even more prevalent in the early 1900s, when many parents began to follow the advice of Dr. Emmet Holt, Professor of Pediatrics at New York Polyclinic and Columbia University. He said that parents should not cradle or pick up a crying baby. Moreover, he said, parents should not handle their children too much or they would spoil them. Holt’s child care book influenced parent-child relationships for several generations (Montagu, 1971).

These impersonal child-rearing practices have become the mode in the United States. Mothers separate themselves from their children with the interposition of bottles, carriages, cribs, and carrier seats. Meanwhile, extended families have became separated, further reducing the opportunity to be touched by loved ones. Lack of touching has created people who lead isolated lives in a world that is addicted to things–a new generation of “untouchables” (Montagu, 1971, p. 287; Montagu & Matson, 1979). Every year, teachers meet touch-deprived children who exhibit common symptoms. Children who do not receive enough touch immediately following birth and in early childhood years often suffer asthmatic and allergic conditions; exhibit speech and learning disabilities; experience intestinal problems; have pale, sallow skin; and are smaller in size. Furthermore, research suggests that touch-deprived children may grow into destructive, violent adults (Blondis & Jackson, 1977; Burgoon & Saine, 1978; Montagu & Matson, 1979).


If children do not receive enough touch at home, where can they meet their tactile needs? Can students’ hunger for touch be met in the classroom? Yes, it can. Appropriately touching students establishes a caring classroom climate conducive to learning and creates a lasting bond. Teachers must touch children to facilitate their emotional, social, intellectual, and physical development. The key is to focus upon appropriate touch, the kind of touching that no one can misinterpret as a sexual advance.


Axtell, R. E. (1991). Gestures: The do’s and taboos of body language around the world. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Blondis, M. N., & Jackson, B. E. (1977). Nonverbal communication with patients: Back to the human touch. New York: Wiley Medical Publication.

Burgoon, J. K., & Saine, T. (1978). The unspoken dialogue. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Buscaglia, L. (1982). Living, loving, and learning. Thorofare, NJ: Charles B. Slack.

Colt, G. H. (1997, August). The magic of touch. Life, 53-62.

Fast, J. (1970). Body language. New York: M. Evans and Company.

Feyereisen, P., & de Lannoy, J. (1991). Gestures and speech: Psychological investigations. New York: Cambridge Press.

Fromme, D. K., Jaynes, W. E., Taylor, D. K., Hanold, E. G., Daniell, J., Rountree, J. R., & Fromme, M. L. (1989). Nonverbal behavior and attitudes toward touch. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 13(1), 3-14.

Goldberg, S., & Lewis, M. (1969). Play behavior in the year-old infant: Early sex differences. Child Development, 40, 21-31.

Henley, N. M. (1973). Status and sex: Some touching observations. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 2, 91-93.

Jourard, S. M. (1983). An exploratory study of body-accessibility. In A. M. Katz & V. T. Katz (Eds.), Foundations of nonverbal communication: Readings, exercises, and commentary (pp. 152-157). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Jourard, S. M., & Rubin, J. E. (1968). Self-disclosure and touching: A study of two modes of interpersonal encounter and their inter-relation. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 8, 39-48.

Kagan, J., & Lewis, M. (1965). Studies of attention in the human infant. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 11, 95-127.

Key, M. R. (1975). Paralanguage and kinesics. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press.

Lewis, M. (1972). Parents and children: Sex-role development. School Review, 80, 229-240.

Major, B. (1981). Gender patterns in touching behavior. In C. Mayo & N. M. Henley (Eds.), Gender and nonverbal behavior (pp. 15-33). New York: Springer-Verlag.

Montagu, A. (1971). Touching: The human significance of the skin. New York: Columbia University Press.

Montagu, A. (1983). Tender, loving care. In A. M. Katz & V. T. Katz (Eds.), Foundations of nonverbalcommunication: Readings, exercises, and commentary (pp. 127-134). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Montagu, A., & Matson, F. (1979). The human connection. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Nguyen, M. L., Heslin, R., & Nguyen, T. D. (1976). The meaning of touch: Sex and marital status differences. Representative Research in Social Psychology, 7, 13-18.

Nguyen, T. D., Heslin, R., & Nguyen, M. L. (1975). The meaning of touch: Sex differences. Journal of Communications, 25, 92-103.

Reite, M. L. (1984). Touch, attachment, and health–Is there a relationship? In C. C. Brown (Ed.), The many facets of touch (pp. 8-65). Skillman, NJ: Johnson & Johnson Baby Products.

Weiss, S. J. (1984). Parental touch and the child’s body image. In C. C. Brown (Ed.), The many facets of touch (pp. 130-138). Skillman, NJ: Johnson & Johnson Baby Products.

Zunin, L., & Zunin, N. (1972). Contact: The first four minutes. Los Angeles: Nash Publishing.

Jacqueline Hansen

Jacqueline Hansen is Assistant Professor, Education, Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky.

Hansen, Jacqueline

And here is this excerpt about cuddling your baby!  (And the other important people in your life too!)


“Pick up your crying baby now”


“New research has found that cuddled children grow up to be healthier, less depressed, kinder, more empathetic, and more productive adults.

Professor Darcia Narvaez of the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Psychology said the research showed it was “impossible” to “spoil” infants with cuddles and that letting them cry can “ruin” their development.

And the younger they receive it, the better, according to Narvaez.

“What parents do in those early months and years are really affecting the way the brain is going to grow the rest of their lives, so lots of holding, touching and rocking, that is what babies expect,” Narvaez told Tribune Media.

“They grow better that way. And keep them calm, because all sorts of systems are establishing the way they are going to work. If you let them cry a lot, those systems are going to be easily triggered into stress.

“We can see that in adulthood, that people that are not cared for well, tend to be more stress reactive and they have a hard time self-calming.”

The new research, which is about to be added to the prestigious journal Applied Developmental Science, studied more than 600 adults. It found that those who were cuddled as children grew into more well-adjusted adults with less anxiety and better mental health.

The study found that, along with cuddling, a positive childhood with lots of affection and quality time also led to healthier adults with better coping skills.

Narvaez’s findings are backed up by research from world-renowned pediatrician Dr. Armeet Singh, Unitypoint Clinic in Bettendorf, Iowa, which suggests that showing love and affection to a distressed, crying baby is developmentally critical, because it lays the foundation to a strong relationship.

“The first four to six months of life for babies, that is one of the most important times for babies to develop that special bonding with their parents and their primary caregivers,” Singh told Tribune Media.

“Now those are the times where definitely we encourage families that at any point of time they are crying, they are looking for somebody to help them out we need to respond to that.’ ”

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