As humans, we’re born to love. Love and affection are necessary for our emotional and physical development. Love, as it turns out, can be shown in many ways. Apart from the endless “I love you”, hugs are a pretty intimate display of love and affection. And, if certain studies are to be believed, hugs are great for the development of children as well.
What is Oxytocin?
Known as the love hormone, oxytocin is a neurotransmitter hormone produced by the pituitary gland. It was discovered by scientists in 1906 and recognized as a key hormone in childbirth and lactation. Additionally, this hormone also plays a role in the distinction of in- and out-group members. It’s why we love people close to us and hold prejudice over others. As such, oxytocin is a reminder of the complexity of our physiological systems.
Oxytocin plays a role in reproductive processes including sexual arousal. It stimulates the pleasure and reward centers and acts as the base for bonding with others. Furthermore, it strengthens the feeling of trust and is essential for close personal relationships.
Humans are highly social animals. We cannot thrive in solitude – isolate yourself from others, and depression will soon follow. That’s why love is essential for our survival. It stimulates neurobiological mechanisms and helps us bond with others. When we fall in love, it sets off a motion of events that allow us to form a family and have a child. We raise our children with a lot of love and affection, and they (hopefully) follow our footsteps.
Oxytocin, as it turns out, seems to play a key role in embryonic brain development. It helps the pituitary glands form properly and eliminates processes such as stress. And, what’s the best way to release oxytocin in our body? That’s right, love. Or at least giving and getting hugs.
The Importance of Bonding with Your Children
In order to secure attachments to others, humans need trust. The process of bonding requires oxytocin. During pregnancy, the pituitary gland secretes a lot of oxytocin, and after birth, it can be found in even higher levels. When combined with prolactin, oxytocin helps with lactation. The chemical reaction behind this process is incredible. It uses three different pathways to activate our system and helps with the production of a slew of important hormones.
Oxytocin is activated through the sensory nerves which are found in the skin. Pleasant sensory stimulation of the skin will help the body release oxytocin in our bloodstream. Interestingly enough, infants use their hands when they want to stimulate milk flow, which boosts the production of oxytocin in the mother.
A recent study showed that oxytocin levels were at their highest in infants who interact with their parents positively. The same high levels of oxytocin were observed in parents who have a close positive relationship with their children. Stressed and anxious parents, though, were observed to have lower levels of oxytocin.
A Truly Unique Hormone
The long-term effects of oxytocin are definitely amazing. It helps us bond with others and stimulates healthy personal interactions. In order to raise the production of oxytocin in your children, scientists recommend hugging. It’s a simple thing that will help you bond with your child on a higher level and improve the development of their brains. So, hug your children as much as you like – science has your back if anyone says something about it.