Closeness with your children is a deeply satisfying thing to do and it is an important part of human interaction, generally.
It establishes secure styles and a great number of physical and health benefits. These positive changes occur at a biological level, thanks to the body’s love molecule, oxytocin.
What is Oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a hormone that allows the uterus to contract during birth and milk to eject when breastfeeding. It was first discovered in 1906, by Sir Henry Dale, and is based on the Greek word pronounced as okitokini, meaning “swift birth.”
When the oxytocin is released in the body it regulates a number of important social behaviors. Here we will emphasize the ability to bond with our loved ones, explore our environment and interact with others. This interaction is especially important for reproduction and caring for our children.
Thanks to the release of this molecule, mothers have healthy connections with their children which is also linked with the taking care of them and what allows our species to survive.
Another name of this hormone is a “love molecule,” as it has a strong role in maternal and reproductive behaviors.
The Biology of Love
The social bonding and love are important for the survival of the people, as they help in enriching our human experiences and they help facilitate reproduction. In addition, they enhance brain development, thanks to the ability to reduce anxiety and stress. The people live in a society and any social isolation is a concept that is not very well programmed in them.
Another positive effect of oxytocin is its positive correlation with trust, which as a behavior develops social bonding, emotional relationships, and group presence.
The Mother-Infant Bond
Healthy bonding releases oxytocin, which stimulates positive social behaviors. Releasing of oxytocin in both the mother and child is stimulated by actions such as skin-to-skin contact like hugging, breastfeeding, and mother’s milk.
The lack of hugging, which can be classified as abnormal bonding, may negatively affect the child’s confidence. It also negatively affects the ability to establish relationships with other people.
For instance, stressful events of the pregnant woman during the gestational period may be related to behavioral deficits in later adulthood, as it can affect our oxytocin systems.
After the child is born
Immediately following the birth, positive social experiences and maternal bonding in early life is the basis for healthy emotional and social development and is associated with sensitive flexibility during stress.
The levels of oxytocin in both mothers and fathers of 4-6-month-old children correlate with the child’s level of social engagement and bonding with them. It is noticeable that the oxytocin levels in mothers are associated with increased mother-infant bonding. So, bonding with the child, through hugging, can increase oxytocin in the body, which establishes a healthier relationship between the parent and child and reduces the stress at the same time.
Having all above mentioned, be free to hug your kids, spouse or any loved one, which will not only show them your affection, but you will increase their oxytocin levels and improve their mental well-being!
- Dale, H. H. (1906). On some physiological actions of ergot. The Journal of Physiology, 34(3),
163–206. Retrieved from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Magon, N., & Kalra, S. (2011). The orgasmic history of oxytocin: Love, lust, and labor. Indian
Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 15 Suppl 3(Suppl3), S156-61.