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Go ahead: Give your partner a hug or cuddle while you catch some Netflix. According to recently published research from Binghamton University, State University of New York, it just might build a stronger relationship. The study, led by Binghamton University doctoral student in psychology Samantha Wagner, particularly looks at the effects of non-sexual intimate touch -- for example, hugging, holding hands or cuddling on the couch, rather than actions intended to lead to sex.
Attachment style refers to human social bonds and exists on a spectrum; avoidant individuals prefer more interpersonal distance, while anxious individuals seek greater closeness. This style develops in childhood, but can change over time and vary with the individual in question.
To determine the connection of attachment style, touch satisfaction and marital satisfaction, researchers used a sample of couples over the age of 18, consisting of husbands and wives; same-sex couples were excluded.
Because the study protocol included hormonal sampling, individuals on hormonal therapy were also excluded, as well as postmenopausal, pregnant or breastfeeding women. They were interviewed separately on their attachment tendencies, the amount of touch and routine affection in their relationships, and their relationship satisfaction.
Researchers expected to find that avoidant individuals preferred less touch, while anxious people prefer more. What they found was more nuanced. The more routine affection that couples experienced, the more they felt satisfied with their partners' touch, even if they had avoidant attachment styles.
With low levels of physical affection, anxious husbands were less satisfied with the touch they received, but not anxious wives, who may instead choose to solicit the missing affection. For men, higher levels of routine affection are associated with relationship satisfaction; in other words, touch is a positive, the icing on the marriage cake. For women, lower levels of routine affection correlated with relationship dissatisfaction, meaning that touch is an essential ingredient and its absence is a negative.
It's a subtle distinction. Whatever a couple's attachment insecurities, the perception of how their partner touches them has the greatest association with "touch satisfaction.
Overall, the study shows an association between non-sexual physical affection and solid marriages, although the current data can't establish cause and effect. However, Wagner emphasized that the study focused only on healthy, consensual touch -- not manipulation or abuse.
Touch holds different meanings for people, she pointed out; someone with autism spectrum disorder may be overwhelmed by tactile sensitivity, and someone with a history of trauma may experience touch as averse. Wagner is, by her own admission, a hugger and has long been fascinated by the healing possibilities of touch; she wrote her senior thesis as a qualitative review of the uses and benefit of touch across the lifespan.
But questions continued to arise: Why do some people enjoy touch more than others? And do they benefit more as a result?
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, couples may want to consider adding more affection to decrease stress -- as long as their partners are receptive and willing. There's plenty of evidence that suggests touch as a way to decrease stress," she said. But she notes that the coronavirus pandemic also may lead to touch deprivation, as social distancing keeps us physically apart from one another.
Consider, for example, healthcare workers who are quarantining themselves from their own families when they return home, to keep the virus from spreading to their loved ones. Materials provided by Binghamton University. Original written by Jennifer Micale. Note: Content may be edited for style and length. Science News.
Story Source: Materials provided by Binghamton University. Journal Reference : Samantha A. Wagner, Richard E. Mattson, Joanne Davila, Matthew D. Johnson, Nicole M. Touch me just enough: The intersection of adult attachment, intimate touch, and marital satisfaction. ScienceDaily, 28 April Binghamton University.
Hugs and kisses: Research connects affection, attachment style and marriage satisfaction. Retrieved July 13, from www. These effects can be observed A study examined heart rate responses in infants less than one year old during a hug and found that children as A new study suggests it may be because they view leaving as bad for their partner. The study, being published in the November issue of But that type of response may actually be beneficial for the ScienceDaily shares links with sites in the TrendMD network and earns revenue from third-party advertisers, where indicated. Print Share.
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