Maternal Touch Predicts Social Orienting in Young Children

9 May, 2017

“Mother and Child” from SRN’s SG Photobank

Does a mother’s touch affect the development of a child’s ‘social brain’?

It is no longer debated that our personalities are a product of both nature and nurture. Yet what aspects of nurture are critical and how they interface with nature are still open issues. Maternal Touch Predicts Social Orienting in Young Children (2016) is a study exploring parent-child interactions uncovers interesting evidence for the significance of physical contact.
In a journal article, Maternal Touch Predicts Social Orienting in Young Children uncovers interesting insights on the significance of physical contact in parent-child interactions, Prof. Richard Ebstein and other researchers from the Department of Psychology invited 42 mother-child pairs to take part in an experiment involving seven kindergartens in Singapore. Children aged four to six were engaged in a 10 minute play session with their mothers involving a board game. Experimenters recorded the frequency of vocal and tactile interactions between mother and child. After the game, the child performed an object categorization task that measured how likely faces as compared to non-face objects were to capture the children’s attention. Thus, task performance served as an index of the children’s social interest. The researchers found a positive correlation between the frequency of touch and the children’s social interest. A similar relationship did not exist for vocalizations. This suggests that the amount of gentle touch children receive in the course of development benefits their social brains. A follow-up investigation conducted by the same researchers at NUS and the Max Planck Institute in Germany corroborated this finding. They showed that children with more touch exhibit more activity in brain regions associated with social perception. Even though the development of our social selves is a complicated process influenced by multiple factors, mothers can comfort themselves with the knowledge that an affectionate touch can go a long way for their children. Yet another reason to honour our mothers on Mother’s Day!
Learn more about the study here.