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Research at TRI

TOUCH STUDIES

 

Aggression

Field, T. (1999). American adolescents touch each other less and are more aggressive toward their peers as compared with French adolescents. Adolescence, 34, 753-758.

•Adolescents were observed at McDonalds’ restaurants in Paris and Miami to assess the amount of touching and aggression during their peer interactions. The American adolescents spent less time leaning against, stroking, kissing, and hugging their peers than did the French adolescents. Instead they showed more self-touching and more aggressive verbal and physical behavior.


Field, T. (1999). Preschoolers in America are touched less and are more aggressive than preschoolers in France. Early Child Development and Care, 151, 11-17.

•French and American preschool children were observed on playgrounds with their parents and peers. The American children played with their parents, talked with and touched their parents less and were more aggressive toward their parents. During peer interactions the American children also showed less touching their peers and more grabbing their peers’ toys, more aggression toward their peers and more fussing


Depressed mothers

Pelaez-Nogueras, M., Field, T., Hossain, Z., & Pickens, J. (1996). Depressed mothers' touching increases infants’ positive affect and attention in still-face interactions. Child Development, 67, 1780-1792.

•The effects of depressed mothers' touching on their infants' behavior were investigated during the still-face situation. Infants of depressed mothers showed more positive affect (smiles and vocalizations) and gazed more at their mothers' hands during the still-face-with-touch period than the infants of non-depressed mothers, who grimaced, cried, and gazed away from their mothers' faces more often.


Mother infant interactions

Field, T. (2002). Infants' need for touch. Human Development, 157, 1-4.

•A contingency-based technique was used to document the infants’ preferences for touch stimulation. In this procedure, infant eye contact was reinforced by the mothers’ face and voice with touch added in one condition and without touch in the other condition. Infants in the first four months of life who received touch along with the other stimuli showed more smiling and vocalizing and less crying.


Pelaez-Nogueras, M., Gewirtz, J.L., Field, T., Cigales, M., Malphurs, J., Clasky, S. & Sanchez, A. (1996). Infant preference for touch stimulation in face-to-face interactions. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 17, 199-213.

•Infant preference for social stimulation that included touch during a face-to-face situation with an adult was investigated. Under the no-touch treatment, the infant eye contact responses were followed by contingent adult smiling and cooing, but not by touching. During the touch condition, infants emitted more eye contact and more smiles and vocalizations, and they spent less time crying and protesting compared with the no-touch condition.


Types of touching

Pelaez-Nogueras, M., Field, T., Gewirtz, J., Cigales, M., Gonzalez, A., Sanchez, A. & Richardson, S.C. (1997). The effects of systematic stroking versus tickling and poking on infant attention and affect. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 18, 169-178.

•Effects of contingent stroking were compared to effects of contingent tickling and poking on infant eye contact (attention) and affect during face-to-face interactions with an adult female. Compared to the tickling and poking treatment, during the systematic stroking treatment infants spent a greater proportion of time making eye contact with the experimenter, smiled and vocalized more and frowned and cried less.


Review

Field, T. (2002). Violence and touch deprivation in adolescents. Adolescence, 37, 735-749.

•There has been a relatively high incidence of anger and aggression in high school samples, even those that were relatively advantaged, as well as high levels of depression (one standard deviation above the mean), suggesting significant disturbance in these youth. Adolescents with these profiles also had less optimal relationships with their families, used illicit drugs more frequently, had inferior academic performance, and had higher depression scores. In our cross-cultural comparisons, preschoolers and adolescents were less physically affectionate and more aggressive in the United States versus France. Further, the U.S. youth received less physical affection as preschoolers, and as adolescents they engaged in more self-stimulating behaviors, perhaps to compensate for receiving less physical affection from their parents and peers.


Socioemotional & Physical Well-being


Field, T. (2010). Touch for socioemotional and physical well-being: A review. Developmental Review, 30, 367-383.

This review briefly summarizes recent empirical research on touch. The research includes the role of touch in early development, touch deprivation, touch aversion, emotions that can be conveyed by touch, the importance of touch for interpersonal relationships and how friendly touch affects compliance in different situations. MRI data are reviewed showing activation of the orbitofrontal cortex and the caudate cortex during affective touch. Physiological and biochemical effects of touch are also reviewed including decreased heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol and increased oxytocin