Touch is the first sense to develop in the foetus in the uterus, and the last to leave us at the end of life. It appears at 6 weeks, and enables the foetus to learn about the uterine environment. The sensory cortex where touch is consciously perceived is the most developed area of the brain at birth. Among all the senses touch stands paramount and provides our connection with the world. The feedback from skin to brain, even in sleep, is continuous.
Touch is essential for us to thrive. The importance in human behaviour of the tactile functions of the skin is evident in the many expressions we use in our language today. We use metaphors for the security that comes with touch; getting and keeping in touch, the magic touch, the personal touch, a delicate touch, a human touch. We have touchy people, and those who are out of touch, and others who have lost their grip (Montagu, 1986).
A child’s first emotional bonds are built from physical contact, loving touch.
It lays the foundation for further emotional and intellectual development.
In addition to being critical for physical growth, development, communication and learning, touch also serves to comfort and give reassurance and build self esteem.
So, what influences do the various kinds of ‘touch’ which the baby experiences in the course of its early life have on its development as a healthy human being?
What kinds of skin stimulations are necessary for the healthy development of the organism both physically and behaviourally?
What are the effects, if any, of the want or insufficiency of particular kinds of skin stimulation?