A Touchy Subject Vital to Young Children's Development

As mentioned in the research section, the sense of touch has a magnanimous effect on a child's development in both the short-term and the long-term. A proper development of touch improves the social, emotional, and intellectual attributes of a developing child. Conversely, a lack of cuddling, holding, and feeling can induce cognitive and emotional deficits that can last for years. Without a doubt, touch is incredibly important to the development of a child which is why the Urban Child Institute's Touch, Talk, Read, Play program emphasizes the importance of touch.

Communication Through Touch

The senses are not fully developed at birth. Children are especially unable to verbally communicate or see well. Touch, though, is one of a baby's key communication avenues. Young children express themselves through personal touch and body movements. Because of this, parents must communicate with their own personal touch and body movements back to their child. Various scientific studies show that a parent or caregiver's reciprocation of gentle and nurturing touch does wonders for the baby. For example, the Touch Research Institute has an extensive archive of scientific studies providing countless examples of how parent-child interaction is not only beneficial to the child, but also to the adult.

Unfortunately, unlike the other senses, touch is a very sensitive issue to many parents and caregivers. The word "touch" can be taboo and an uncomfortable word. Indeed, with the fears of sexual harassment and abuse, parents and caregivers are now more cautious about who exactly is able to physically interact with their child. Although these worries are justified, misunderstandings about the nature of touch may lead families and caregivers to limit appropriate forms of touch that ultimately fosters development.

Good Touch and Bad Touch

Beryl Wright's Commercial Appeal article addresses this dilemma. Adults are now more hesitant to hold or touch children out of fear of false accusations that could damage their reputation or career. As Wright points out, the solution should not be to totally neglect children from touch: babies need massages and physical bonding to develop as much as possible. So, rather than completely isolating a child from personal touch, it would be more beneficial for adults to know the difference between "good" touch and "bad" touch.

The Memphis Child Advocacy Center is part of the Stewards of Children Program. The Stewards of Children program, in turn, is part of the Darkness to Light organization, which is dedicated to ending child sexual abuse. The Stewards of Children program is the only nationally available program scientifically proven to increase knowledge, improve attitudes, and change child-protective behaviors. This program is available online or in certain group sessions for all interested adults or youth-serving organizations. Beyond the classes, Darkness to Light includes various other resources for preventing child sexual abuse.