New Study: The More You Hug Your Kids, The More Their Brains Develop

The time spent with the family and children is an essential part of human interaction. It strengthens the bonds and leads to countless physical and health advantages.

Apparently, at a biological level, it causes amazing positive changes.

Oxytocin is a hormone first discovered in 1906, by Sir Henry Dale, who coined the term, and derived it from the Greek “ωκυτοκίνη” (articulated as okitokini), which means “swift birth”.

This hormone is released in high amounts during childbirth and allows the uterus to contract amid birth and milk to eject during breastfeeding.

Oxytocin regulates numerous vital social behaviors, like the ability to bond with friends and family.

It helps the mothers to have healthy bonds with their babies since from an evolutionary aspect, dealing with our progeny has enabled our species to survive. This is why this hormone is also known as the “love molecule”.

Our survival is determined by love and social bonding, as they improve human experiences, help reproduction and boost the development of the brain by reducing anxiety and stress.

On the other hand, group exclusion leads to physical and developmental disorders, like elevating the risk of death in both animal models and primitive human tribes.

Therefore, we are designed as social animals, and oxytocin positively correlates to trust, which enables healthy emotional relationships, group inclusion, and social bonding.

Oxytocin is released during mother-infant bonding and positively affects social behaviors. Its production is stimulated by hugging, breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact.

Abnormal bonding, like a lack of hugging, has negative effects on the confidence of the child and its ability to establish healthy relationships with other people.

For instance, stress during the gestational period may be linked to behavioral deficits in later adulthood, as a result of the way to influences oxytocin systems.

The findings of studies conducted on rats showed that in case of paired prenatally stressed mothers and offspring, the low oxytocin levels lead to increased aggressiveness and anxiety-like behaviors.

After the birth of the child, its emotional and social developments are based on the positive social experiences and maternal bonding in the early life of the baby, which also heighten the resilience during stress.

Studies found a correlation between the levels of this hormone in both mothers and fathers of 4-6-month-old children and the level of social engagement and bonding of the baby with the parents.

Increased oxytocin levels in mothers are linked to the increased mother-infant bonding. Hence, bonding with the child, for instance, through hugging,  elevates oxytocin in the body, and thus enables a healthier relationship between the parent and child, lowers stress, and prevents social deficits as the child grows up.

Furthermore, researchers have found that hugging offers multiple other benefits for the child.

-- The skin contact and the touch stimulate the senses, which in turn boosts the function of the brain, and helps your child to grow smarter

-Children deprived of physical contact stop growing, regardless of the normal intake of nutrients, and the hugs and nurturing touches can improve the growth deficiency

-- Hugging boosts the immune system of the children since it boosts oxytocin levels and lowers the plasma levels of thyroid hormones, accelerating the recovery of wounds.

-- Hugging will help you calm the tantrum-throwing child and help them restore their ability to control emotions and develop empathy

-Hugging will boost the self-esteem of your child and boost their positivity. It will reduce fear, boost trust, and strengthen the relationship, by creating a secure attachment.

Apparently, we are really born to love, and our physical and emotional development depends on the level of love and affection we give and receive in life.

Giving someone a warm embrace or receiving it is always priceless. Therefore, feel free to hug that little miracle of yours whenever you can!

According to the author and family therapist Virginia Satir, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth”.