Premature Birth and the Role of Touch
Infants born prematurely are deprived of the mother’s bodily contact and its provisions. We follow children born prematurely from birth to young adulthood, focusing on systems specifically impacted by maternal presence. In a randomized case-control study we test the effects of Kangaroo Care on children’s brain, hormones, and behavior from birth to young adulthood. The role of touch is also studied through massage-based interventions, direct observations, and in psychopathological conditions where maternal touch is minimal (e.g., postpartum depression, infant failure to thrive).
Premature birth is associated with disruptions to regulatory functions across childhood – across childhood and adolescence, exposure to chronic maternal depression markedly increases child propensity to display a full-blown psychiatric disorder, particularly anxiety and conduct disorders.
Effects of prematurity on long-term child outcomes result from the interplay of parenting and child regulatory abilities – the mutual influences of self-regulation and parenting over time shapes outcome in premature infants across childhood.
Provision of touch (kangaroo care) exert long-term favorable effects on child development from infancy to adulthood , including improvement in self-regulation, cognition and attention, physiological support system, social abilities, hormonal systems, and neural systems