That loving touch

November 03, 1997

The Los Angeles Times said in an editorial Oct. 29:

RESEARCH INTO human behavior often has a wonderful way of validating common sense or intuitive understanding. As all caring mothers and fathers know, infants like to be held and caressed, and they tend to be happier for that. Now studies show how the absence of tactile contact can make not just for a cranky baby but for changes in the child's brain biochemistry. That in turn can lead to lifelong intellectual, behavioral and physical problems.

That infants who are deprived of close maternal contact often develop learning and emotional problems has been clear for some time. Research presented at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans this week illuminates the biochemical consequences of neglect. Children who are deprived of regular reassuring physical contact were found to have levels of stress hormones far higher than normal. These can lead to impaired growth and development of both the brain and body, slow learning, apathetic behavior and chronic illnesses.

The new studies provide a biochemical basis for understanding just how important affection and support expressed through hugging and stroking can be. Mothers, fathers, day care providers all have vital roles to play. But too many infants continue to be denied the affection that is vital to their development. Their lives are scanted by neglect, to their great detriment and to society's.

Pub Date: 11/03/97

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