September 10, 2018

Here's why you might hate being hugged, according to science

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The reason why some people hate being hugged may have something to do with how they were raised, science says.

In 2012, a study published in Comprehensive Psychology discovered that individuals raised by parents who were regular huggers were more expected to be huggers in adulthood.

Hugging is an essential factor in a kid’s emotional upbringing, the study stated.

Suzanne Degges-White, a professor of Counseling and Counselor Education at Northern Illinois University, said: "Our tendency to engage in physical touch—whether hugging, a pat on the back, or linking arms with a friend—is often a product of our early childhood experiences."


Degges-White explained that the idea of hugging probably makes the people who were raised by non-huggers annoying.


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“In a family that was not typically physically demonstrative, children may grow up and follow that same pattern with their own kids,” she said.

However, the professor also noted that there are cases when growing up without physical touch can have the opposite effect.


“Some children grow up and feel ‘starved’ for touch and become social huggers that can’t greet a friend without an embrace or a touch on the shoulder,” she said.

A professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, Darcia Narvaez, said that there are two principal ways not being touched can affect a growing body.

According to Narvaez, it can lead to an underdeveloped vagus nerve, a bundle of nerves that runs from the spinal cord to the abdomen.


Research revealed that underdeveloped vagus nerve could lower people’s ability to be friendly or kind.

Another effect of not being touch is an underdeveloped oxytocin system. It is the gland that releases the oxytocin hormone that can help humans form bonds with other people.

Narvaez pointed to a group of Romanian orphans as proof. In 2014, these orphans were at the center of a study on the permanent impact of negligence on developing minds.


According to the study, Romanian orphans who were adopted had malfunctioning oxytocin systems.

"They were hardly touched in the orphanage and so did not display the rise in oxytocin— ‘the cuddle hormone’—well-cared-for children have when sitting on their parent’s lap," said Narvaez.

It can be challenging to pick up on social cues and even be more friendly without this hormone. So hugging and touch are very crucial for children.