Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library


Tiffany Field
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 2
Published by: MIT Press,
Pages: 264
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Although the therapeutic benefits of touch have become increasingly clear, American society, claims Tiffany Field, is dangerously touch-deprived. Many schools have "no touch" policies; the isolating effects of Internet-driven work and life can leave us hungry for tactile experience. In this book Field explains why we may need a daily dose of touch. The first sensory input in life comes from the sense of touch while a baby is still in the womb, and touch continues to be the primary means of learning about the world throughout infancy and well into childhood. Touch is critical, too, for adults' physical and mental health. Field describes studies showing that touch therapy can benefit everyone, from premature infants to children with asthma to patients with conditions that range from cancer to eating disorders. This second edition ofTouch, revised and updated with the latest research, reports on new studies that show the role of touch in early development, in communication (including the reading of others' emotions), in personal relationships, and even in sports. It describes the physiological and biological effects of touch, including areas of the brain affected by touch, and the effects of massage therapy on prematurity, attentiveness, depression, pain, and immune functions. Touch has been shown to have positive effects on growth, brain waves, breathing, and heart rate, and to decrease stress and anxiety. As Field makes clear, we enforce our society's touch taboo at our peril.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32064-1
    Subjects: Public Health, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. 1 Touch Hunger
    (pp. 1-18)

    Tana was raised in a Romanian orphanage. At age seven, relief workers found her all skin and bones and only half the height of a normal child her age.¹ As with the many other children in the orphanage, her plight made the relief workers feel they were witnessing a cruel joke being played on these little survivors. Because there were so many children and the orphanage was so severely understaffed, Tana and the others had spent most of their time in cribs and had been touched and held only during infrequent caregiving activities. Barely able to walk on their sticklike...

  5. 2 Touch as Communication
    (pp. 19-44)

    Touch is our most social sense. Unlike seeing, hearing, smelling, and tasting, which can generally be done alone, touching typically implies an interaction with another person. Although touch is extremely important for social interactions, the term is rarely used in books on communication skills. Nonetheless, many research studies conducted on touch as communication have focused on how it varies widely by gender, age, class, and culture.

    Touch reliably communicates different emotions in the same way that facial and vocal expressions convey different emotions.¹ Emotions can be accurately identified from a stranger touching you on your arm without having any other...

  6. 3 Touch in Early Development
    (pp. 45-68)

    By looking at how animal mothers handle their offspring, we can learn how important touch is for human babies. In several species, the mother’s licking of her newborn is critical for the development of many systems in baby animals, including the circulatory, digestive, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, immunological, neuroendocrine, reproductive, and respiratory systems. As already noted, if rat mothers do not lick their offspring, the rat pups will die. Later in their development, rats provide their own stimulation by self-licking, as do cats and many other animals.

    The importance of touch in infant development is highlighted by many handling experiments that mimic...

  7. 4 Touch Deprivation
    (pp. 69-86)

    Developmental delays are common in children who are deprived of stimulation, for example, premature neonates and some institutionalized children.¹ Supplemental stimulation has helped a wide range of organisms, from worms to rat pups to human infants. Orphans in eastern European institutions, for example, have shown delayed growth and cognitive development, as well as a greater incidence of serious infections and attachment disorders.²

    Even brief periods of deprivation by mothers, for example, when they are unresponsive during early interactions, can stress infants. In the laboratory situation called the mother’s still face, infants’ cortisol (stress hormone) levels were higher and vagal activity...

  8. 5 Touch Messages to the Brain
    (pp. 87-118)

    Without a sense of touch, moving about in the world would be impossible. We usually think it is our hands that give us the most touch information because we use them to manipulate objects, but everything we do, including sitting, walking, kissing, and feeling pain, depends on touch. This becomes clear when we try to negotiate a slippery street, an icy ski slope, or a rocky terrain. Learning whether something is rough or smooth, cold or hot is critical in order to avoid splinters and burns. And without the sensation of touch, the pleasure of skin-to-skin contact, or feeling velvet,...

  9. 6 Touch Therapies
    (pp. 119-144)

    We can classify touch therapies into three groups: energy methods, manipulative therapies, and amalgams (combinations of both). All of these alternative medical therapies are becoming increasingly popular. In aNew England Journal of Medicinearticle, a Harvard University survey suggested that as many as 38 percent of Americans are paying for alternative medicine out of pockets because it is not covered by most health care plans. In this survey, the most popular forms of alternative medicine were chiropractic care, massage therapy, and relaxation therapy.¹ Because there are so few data on the relative effectiveness of these therapies, most people tend...

  10. 7 Infant Massage
    (pp. 145-160)

    Infant massage is practiced in most of the world. In many places, including Nigeria, Uganda, India, Bali, Fiji, New Guinea, New Zealand (the Maori), Venezuela, and Russia, infants are given a massage with oil after the daily bath and before sleep for the first several months of their lives.

    Infant massage has more recently been discovered and researched in the Western world. In almost every city in the United States, there are massage therapy schools teaching parents how to massage their infants. The techniques they use are based on the teachings of two massage therapists who trained in India—Vimala...

  11. 8 Massage Therapy for Children, Adolescents, and Adults
    (pp. 161-188)

    The Ayurveda, the earliest known medical text from India (around 1800 BC), lists massage, along with diet and exercise, as primary healing practices of that time. As Jules Older noted, even the English wordshampoo, which usually involves a head massage, comes from the ancient Hindi wordchampna, meaning to “press.”¹ Over the course of history, massage therapy has been used for many conditions, from labor pains to mental illness, restoring movement in fractured, strained, or wounded limbs, and for rheumatic diseases, stimulating the breast for milk, stomach pains, and aging. Massage improves circulation helps eliminate waste, reduces swelling, and...

  12. Afterword
    (pp. 189-192)

    This second edition, like the first one, briefly summarizes empirical research on touch, including the role of touch in early development, touch deprivation, and touch aversion. This second edition adds more recent research on how emotions can be communicated by touch, the role of touch for interpersonal relationships, and how touch affects compliance in different situations. In addition, newer functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data are reviewed, showing activation of the orbitofrontal cortex and the caudate cortex during affective touch and its transmission via unmyelinated C afferents. Replication data on physiological and biochemical effects of touch are also summarized, including...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 193-240)
  14. Index
    (pp. 241-250)