Effect of Touch on Infants : Harry Harlow

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Effect of Touch on Infants

Harry Harlow conducted experiments on baby monkeys to see how their behavior would develop if they did not have the influence of touch from their mother. Harlow placed new born infant monkeys into a crate with a "wire-mother" for feeding, and a "cloth-mother". By observing their behavior he noticed things that were similar to autistic children such as: rocking, social withdrawal, self-clasping and grooming. He did tests and discovered that the stress hormone levels in the isolated monkeys were much higher than that in non-separated monkeys. Similarly the growth hormone levels were less in isolated monkeys and higher in normal ones. Harlow observed the monkeys as they grew up to see what their social behavior would be like as adults. Their behavior was odd. They did not display normal breeding activities, and the females that actually did breed made poor mothers as they did not try to protect or care for their offspring. There have been similiarities noticed between the touch deprived monkeys and touch deprived children. One experiment was done in Romanian Orphanages where children were only attended to if their diaper needed changed or their bottle propped up for them to eat. The children showed similar behaviors to the monkeys in Harlow's experiment. These children were also delayed in their motor and mental growth, as well as in their physical development. Also like the monkeys they showed abnormal stress hormone levels. Children that were deprived on touch at a young age also do not fit in well to society. They have a hard time keeping any real friends or showing true emotion.

This article and information is useful because it helps me to understand why touch is important. We have studied the physiology and how things happen, but knowing how those things tie into our lives adds understanding and interest to the concept. I assumed that the amount of attention a child receives would effect their personality and...
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