Touch as important to child development as healthy food, research finds

Annette Rawstrone
Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Touch is as essential to child development as nutrition, a report published as the UK emerges from national lockdown has found.

Caring touch is vital for young children's development and wellbeing
Caring touch is vital for young children's development and wellbeing

Emergent neuro-scientific evidence shows that nurturing touch is an essential pre-requisite of the physical and emotional security that children need in order to grow and flourish. A lack of caring touch in early life has lifelong adverse consequences on mental health.

The report, Wellbeing and Nurture: Physical and Emotional Security in Childhood published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on A Fit and Healthy Childhood, refers to the damage made by the ‘social starvation’ approach to child development made by the Ceausescu regime in Romanian orphanages in the 1980s.

Recommendations in the report, sponsored by Liverpool John Moore’s University, include:

  • Emotional Health and Wellbeing should be incorporated into training for all health and education professionals involved in care and advice to children and their parents or carers.

  • An immediate strategy to combat the adverse impact on the mental health of children and young people of social isolation beyond the pandemic. Services offering face-to-face contact and related activities should be commissioned especially in rural and other isolated communities.

  • Positive touch work to become an established part of the school curriculum; possibly as a component of PSHE.
  • A compendium of best practice models and evaluations of affective touch strategies for classroom use to be compiled and cascaded by the Department for Education.

  • The four Children’s Commissioners to be involved in drawing up a set of agreed UK indicators for Emotional Health and Wellbeing to be incorporated into all statutory children’s developmental health assessment programmes.

  • Ensure that Sure Start Centres are integral to a new social isolation reduction strategy because they have the capacity to offer early intervention in a variety of locations (not exclusively more built up areas).

 

APPG chair, Steve McCabe MP said that our future society depends on the physical and emotional wellbeing of children.

‘We have all undergone devastating experiences of social isolation during the pandemic, but the priority now is to look forward,’ he said.

‘Years of the “me society” could not save us from Covid-19. Now, acting together, we must optimise the emotional and physical wellbeing of every child so that we re-learn how to look out for each other. By teaching children to connect, we will create families and communities that will be strong and healthy.’

 

 

 

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