Touch and Childhood Development: Arguably, it was not until the appearance of the clinical reports by Dr. Rene Spitz (1945, 1947) that the seeds of research in the field of touch were sown. Spitz’s reports reflect his anguished quest for a solution to the unexplainable deaths and pathologies of infants and toddlers in his care. The diagnosis of that era for these terminal children was “marasmus” (translation – “the withering away and dying of no apparent cause.”) Spitz finally discovered that medicine, good nutrition, and clean surroundings impacted not the least on the tragic outcome. Only what Harry Harlow (1958, 1962) was to later call “contact comfort” turned out to be the “cure” for the excruciating deaths of these children. Touch deprivation is probably most damaging to an infant because, unlike the other four senses, the neonate has an extremely small amount of control over somatosensory self-stimulation due to underdeveloped motor control capacities. Touch and Human Sexuality
Consequences of touch deprivation: There is no better way to demonstrate the importance of touch than by examining what happens when we are deprived of it. Most of us have experienced the sensation of touch deprivation at some point – the need to feel the benefits of touch. But touch deprivation can also have more serious consequences.
Anorexic individuals also report a strong desire for more tactile nurturance. Compared with a non-clinical sample, anorexics have reported greater touch deprivation during their current lives as well as their childhood. These studies suggest that the inclusion of positive touch experiences such as massage therapy may be important for successful treatment. Studies have shown that elderly individuals and hospitalized depressed children showed decreased anxiety, depression and stress hormones following massage. Bulimic adolescents have also benefited from massage therapy. Massaged patients reported improved attitudes on the Eating Disorder Inventory, including drive for thinness, bulimia, body dissatisfaction, ineffectiveness, perfectionism, interpersonal distrust, interoceptive awareness and maturity fears. Additionally, they reported lower depression and anxiety levels and they exhibited less anxious behavior and more positive affect. Following a month of treatment, massaged subjects showed lower cortisol, again suggesting reduced stress, and increased dopamine. The present study investigated the effectiveness of massage therapy for women with anorexia nervosa. Anorexia Symptoms are Reduced by Massage
Maria Montessori claimed that humankind abandoned in this early formative period becomes the worst threat to its own survival. To betray this essential need for nurturing which means loving, pleasurable touch and body contact, especially in males, who are biologically most vulnerable early in life, results in increasing numbers of juvenile and adult males who batter, abuse and rape females, the true source of the nurturing they need. And this cycle of violence spreads throughout society and the world. Bonding or Violence
It’s not like we can quantify the amount of loving touch that’s needed as a prescription to heal touch deprivation. But, one study sheds some light on the particular lack of touch in the American culture. Sets of American, French and Puerto Rican friends were observed in a coffee shop over the course of an hour to determine how frequently physical contact occurs. U.S. friends tend to touch each other an average of only twice an hour, whereas French friends touch 110 times, and Puerto Rican friends touch 180 times (see Davis, Power of Touch, 80). Warm and frequent expressions of touch have been culturally conditioned out of us. “Why Do I Keep Doing That”