Throughout childhood, kids are given support and care through a variety of mediums, and touch can be one of the most important. Children are often touched by their mothers for reassurance, an action that has been shown to create a feeling of security in young people. Researchers at Columbia University and the University of Alberta decided to investigate whether this effect could also be seen later on in life, and devised a study meant to test the impact of a woman’s touch on the behavior of adults.
Participants in the study were asked to engage in various risk-taking behaviors such as gambling and investing money. During the participation period, subjects were greeted by either a male or a female, and all received either a handshake, a pat on the back, or no physical contact. The willingness of participants to take risks after this contact was recorded, and participants also supplied answers to questionnaires inquiring about their sense of security. The researchers found that those participants who were given physical contact by a woman were significantly more likely to take increased risks in the gambling and investing tasks than participants greeted by men or who did not receive any physical contact. The participants who were patted on the back by a woman also showed greater risk-taking behavior than those who received a handshake from a female. All participants who were touched by a woman also reported feeling more secure.
The results suggest that the reassurance and stability conveyed by a mother’s touch in childhood is able to carry throughout life and can be associated with female touch in general. The work may help psychotherapists and counselors develop more effective treatments for children as well as adults affected by insecurity, abuse, and other issues.
© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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