Human touch, attachment and bonding greatly influence the physical and emotional health of people. People who are socially isolated are more likely to be stressful than social people.
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Harry Harlow (1906-1981), was a developmental psychology; he did a research study on how the initial life experiences later affect adulthood.
This paper will focus on briefly summarizing an important psychological studies found in the book entitled, Forty Studies That Changed Psychology (2009), 6th Edition, by Roger R. Hock. “Discovering Love” Highlights and criticisms of “Discovering Love” are included.
Summary of “Discovering Love”
The research done by Harlow has greatly influenced the field of developmental psychology and the studies have improved the relationship between infants and their mothers/ primary caregivers. Though the studies done by Harlow have been accepted by majority of the people, the work has been criticized.
The studies have faced a number of criticisms. For example, some people have said that it is not appropriate to compare the love/attachment of monkeys with human beings. Though some people have criticized the studies done by Harlow, it was appropriate to use monkeys for research because in many ways rhesus monkeys can be compared with humans and also that it would be unethical to use human infants to do the research. One of the highlights of the studies is that it has helped human to know that providing comfort, contact and attachment to infants is more fulfilling to infants than just being provided with food. This highlight has also provided insight to human by helping them know that abused and orphan children can be adopted and as a result grow to be emotionally and physically healthy adults as long as the care giver provides them with attachment and skin to skin contact. Though the research supports the idea of parents hiring caregivers to take care of their infants while they go to work, it more advisable for parents to provide the children with contact and attachment. Since providing infants with comfort, attachment, bonding and skin to skin contact is more important than providing infants with food, this shows that fathers can take a role in caring for the infants.
The research has demonstrated that skin to skin contact is essential for the development and survival of infants born prematurely. This research has helped hospitals that provide care to premature babies know and therefore provide a babies need for touch and physical contact. Children that are provided with lots of contact develop a strong immune system and are therefore able to fight infections unlike children who are deprived of touch.
Critics of Harlow studies say that it is inappropriate that Harlow used rhesus monkeys to compare rhesus monkeys with humans because in humans, the process of attachment develops more slowly compared to monkey. Despite the critic, the study by Harlow has proved that children provided with an environment with lots of skin to skin contact, attachment and bonding are more likely to be confident, independent and productive adults.
Parents and caregivers should strive to provide comfort, skin to skin contact, bonding and attachment to infants since according to the research done by Harlow human contact is more fulfilling to children compared to being provided with food. From the studies done by Harlow, it can be concluded that affection and love are primary needs which are important or even more important than thirst and hunger.