The role of physical activity and touch in children's social bonding

Jefferies, M., Tunçgenç, B. ORCID: 0000-0002-1135-1004 and Cohen, E., 2018. The role of physical activity and touch in children's social bonding. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 31. ISSN 0889-3667

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Physical activity (PA) and touch, long known to facilitate interpersonal affiliation in adults and non-human primates, are common elements of children's free play. However, no research has examined how children's play involving PA and touch is linked with social bonding (i.e., positive emotional states and behaviors that help create, maintain, and characterize affiliation and attachment among individuals). This paper reports on two novel studies designed to explore these links in children's play. In two studies, we investigated associations between PA, touch, and prosociality in 5-to-8-year-old children. In a naturalistic observation study (N = 50), we assessed the amount of PA, smiling/laughing, touch, and prosociality in children's play behavior during school breaks. PA levels were also measured indirectly via heart rate monitors (HRM). The findings revealed that observed-PA was associated with frequency of smiling/laughing between pairs. PA (observed and HRM) was also associated with frequency of touch. In a second study (N = 84), we experimentally tested the effect of touch on helping behavior in the context of physically-active play. In pairs, children ran to collect felt shapes, which they placed either onto each other (touch condition) or onto a board (no-touch condition). Subsequent helping behavior was assessed in a separate task. There was a non-significant trend towards more helping in the touch condition. We discuss the findings in terms of the significance of PA and touch for social bonding in childhood and offer suggestions for future research in this underexplored area.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: International Journal of Comparative Psychology
Creators: Jefferies, M., Tunçgenç, B. and Cohen, E.
Publisher: eScholarship, University of California
Date: 2018
Volume: 31
ISSN: 0889-3667
Rights: © 2018 by the author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY)
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 28 Sep 2023 15:50
Last Modified: 28 Sep 2023 15:50

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