Young children find a parent's hug more calming than a stranger's

A study from Toho University in Tokyo looked at how the heart-rate of children over four months and under one year of age responded to a hug from a parent and from a woman whom the children did not know.

Children’s heart rate became slower when they were being hugged by their parents as opposed to when they were being hugged by a stranger. Parents’ heart rate also slowed during the hug. Hugs affected the heart-rate of babies only when the children were neither crying nor unsettled. The researchers surmise that hugs are an important part of parenting and easy to offer on a regular basis, producing significant positive effects on relaxation in both babies and parents.

Yoshida, S., Kawahara, Y., Sasatani, T., Kiyono, K., Kobayashi, Y. et al. (2020) Infants show physiological responses specific to parental hugs. iScience. DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2020.10099

[Editor’s Note: This three study is particularly important for educators and health care professionals working with families across the transition to parenthood. They strengthen the evidence-base for what has long been known – that a healthy diet is important pre-conception; that screens can interfere with sensitive communication between parents and children, and that hugs are a powerful means of helping parents and babies to relax!]

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