From the moment a child leaves the womb they are held by nurses, soon wrapped in warm blankets, and last, but certainly not least they, are held by their dear mother, without a worry in the world.
In most cases babies don’t have to worry about receiving comfort, and their only concern is when will their next meal be, or if their diaper needs changing. Physical touch is so frequently given to developing children that many do not even realize what crucial impact it has on a child. Children who don’t receive physical touch in their first three years of developing become physically weak, and often suffer many consequences through these circumstances that are far out of their control. The result of physical neglect is often seen in the forms of both stunted physical and mental development, in addition to later emotional trauma in the child’s life.
In the 1990s researchers discovered a naturally occurring, heartbreaking large scale case study in a Romanian orphanage regarding touch deprivation affecting children. At the time, Romania was experiencing a skyrocketing birth rate as national policies of childbearing left thousands of children unwanted and left to be raised in overcrowded orphanages, with little to no physical touch.
Psychologist Tiffany Field, director of Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine observed that these deprived children were developing with heights and weights far below average and behaved like children “you’d see with severe autism” (Romm 1). This research can be explained due to the fact that being touched triggers neurotransmitter serotonin and carries signals to the vagus nerve which slows down the nervous system in order to lower blood pressure and heart rate lowering the activity of a stress hormone known as cortisol.
Human touch is needed in early development for both psychological and scientific reasons.
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