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    Caregiver touch and infant exploratory behaviour

    Brzozowska, Alicja (2021) Caregiver touch and infant exploratory behaviour. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Infants spend a lot of time in bodily contact with their parents; still, parents exhibit significant individual differences in the amount of touch they provide to their infants (Jean et al., 2009). Animal studies show that such naturally occurring variation in parental touching behaviours is consequential for infant development, in particular – response to novelty (Caldji et al., 1998). The amount of touch an infant receives might signal the quality of the environment to the infant, and thus the safety of engaging in exploration (Meaney, 2001). Moreover, there is growing evidence that affective touch also promotes social cognition in humans (Crucianelli & Filippetti, 2020). Despite the strong premises to investigate the associations between caregiver touch and exploratory behaviour in human infants, few studies of these putative effects exist. This thesis aims to fill this gap by addressing the questions of whether the effects of naturally occurring variation in caregiver touch on exploratory behaviour found in non-human animals are indeed present in human infants, and what the mechanisms behind these putative effects are. I start by investigating the different ways of measuring caregiver touch, and demonstrate that we are able to capture reliable individual differences in the use of touch even with one-off, self-report measures. I then go on to examine whether caregiver touch associates with infant oxytocin and cortisol levels, as possible mediators of the effects of touch on response to novelty. Next, I present an investigation into two components of exploratory behaviour, novelty approach and sustained attention, and examine whether caregiver touch predicts infant exploratory profile; I failed to find evidence for the hypothesised effects. Finally, I focus on infant social attention: no evidence for caregiver touch predicting overt social attention was found, but there was weak evidence for touch enhancing focused attention to faces, as measured with electroencephalography.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2021 13:09
    Last Modified: 03 Sep 2021 13:09


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