benefits of affectionEver worry that you’re smothering your little ones with too many hugs and kisses? Well, studies show that too much affection is better than not enough affection. A lack of affection has been linked to a higher propensity for anxiety and stress later in life. On the other hand, growing up in a home filled with warmth and affection generally results in lifelong positive outcomes.

So for Valentine’s Day this year, we challenge everyone in the community to give their loved ones extra hugs and kisses. What are the benefits of affection exactly? There are plenty of them. Let’s take a look.

What are the Benefits of Affection?

Humans are a social species with a need to belong. We are wired to protect relationships, and therefore grieve when we lose close relationships. Hugs, kisses, and words of affection play a critical role in developing these relationships, whether it’s with a friend, family member, or lover. Affection helps the body regulate stress and recover from stress faster by lowering cortisol levels. Studies show how affection enables antibodies in our immune system to circulate better throughout the body.

So what effect does hugging your children have? Evidence shows that babies with affectionate mothers grow up to be happier, more resilient, and less anxious, while children who lack affection are prone to lower self-esteem and more likely to feel alienated, hostile, aggressive, and antisocial. Researchers believe that a hormone called oxytocin may be responsible for this effect. This hormone is released in the brain whenever a person feels a close connection. The more oxytocin that’s released, the more positive emotions your child will feel.

What Can Happen from a Lack of Affection or Close Relationships?

There’s a growing body of evidence that shows how social rejection, ostracism, bullying, stigmatization, and lack of affection can lead to a wide range of mental and physical problems. This includes substance abuse, mental illness, addictions, obesity, cardiovascular issues, and suicide.

Want tips on raising happy, confident children? Read our blog on the importance of family dinners or check out parts I, II, III, and IV of our Raising a Well-Rounded Teen series.