New Study: The More You Hug Your Kids, The More Their Brains Develop
We humans need social interaction and love to give us security and bring many health benefits. Giving love to your children is not only a deeply satisfying thing to do, but it’s also an essential part of human interaction. Why? Because when we feel loved and secure, our body produces a hormone called oxytocin!
Sir Henry Dale discovered Oxytocin in 1906, by Sir Henry Dale. He invented the term “oxytocin” from the Greek “ωκυτοκίνη” (pronounced as okitokini), which means “swift birth.” Oxytocin is a hormone, and this hormone is discharged in large amounts during childbirth. It’s also responsible for the uterus to contract during birth and milk to come out of the mother’s breasts during breastfeeding.
The release of oxytocin in the body controls important social behaviors like the ability to bond with our loved ones, explore our environment, and interact with others. All of those things are crucial for reproduction and caring for our children. The release of this molecule creates healthy bonds between mothers and their children. This is important for our evolution because, like any other animal, taking care of our young is what enables our species to survive. Oxytocin is known as the “love molecule” because it plays an active role in reproductive and maternal behaviors.
What Is The Biology of Love
Social bonding and love are essential for our survival not because they enrich our human experiences, but because they facilitate reproduction and can improve brain development by reducing stress and anxiety. From an evolutionary point of view, group exclusion, such as excluding someone or a group of people from a social interaction, could result in physical and developmental disorders. It raises the likelihood of death in animal models and also in primitive human tribes.
We are meant to be social animals. And social isolation is not something well programmed in us. Oxytocin levels are also positively associated with trust, a behavior that is necessary for developing social bonding, emotional relationships, and thus group inclusion.
The Mother-Infant Bond During Pregnancy
The mother-infant bond releases oxytocin, which influences positive social behaviors. Breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact like hugging, and the mother’s milk induce the release of oxytocin in both the mother and child, helping to increase the bond between the two.
The lack of hugging can negatively affect the child’s confidence and ability to establish relationships with other people in the future. Social factors are influenced by the body’s oxytocin levels. For example, stressful events while pregnant could be related to behavioral deficits in later adulthood due to how it affects our oxytocin systems.
Studies in rats had proved that when prenatally stressed mothers and babies were paired, an increase in anxiety-like behavior and aggressiveness was seen, which was linked with lower oxytocin levels in the brain.
After The Child Is Born
Positive postnatal social experiences and maternal bonding in early life is the basis for healthy social and emotional development of the children. It is also linked to heightened resilience during stress. Oxytocin levels in both mothers and fathers of 4-6-month-old children were related to the child’s ability to engage socially and bond with their parents. Higher oxytocin levels in mothers are linked to increased mother-infant bonding.
This means, when you bond with your child, for example, through hugging, you can increase oxytocin in the body. This effect not only builds a healthier relationship between the parent and child, but it could lessen stress and social deficits as the child gets older.
Now you know that when you hug your children, spouse or any loved one, you are not only showing them affection, but you are also biologically improving their oxytocin levels, which could help improve their mental well being in the future.