Bonding with your loved ones plays a significant role in human interaction. Moreover, this allows you to establish secure relationships as well as leads to many health and physical benefits. But, are you familiar with the fact that these changes can occur at a biological level?
What Is Oxytocin and How Does It Work?
Sir Henry Dale discovered this hormone in 1906. Additionally, oxytocin is released in great amounts during childbirth. Furthermore, this hormone helps the milk eject when breastfeeding and the uterus contract during birth. The release of this hormone in your body helps regulate various social behaviors, including your ability to interact with others, bond with your loved ones, and explore the environment. They play a vital role in the reproduction as well as caring for your children. That’s not all, the release of this hormone helps mothers have healthy bonds with their children. This hormone is also called the “love molecule” due to its strong role in maternal and reproductive behaviors.
The Benefits of Social Bonding and Love
Social bonding and love are crucial to your survival since they help make reproduction easier, enrich your experiences, and improve brain development by decreasing stress and anxiety. Moreover, from an evolutionary point of view, group exclusion contributes to developmental and physical disorders, thus elevating the risk of death in primitive human tribes and animal models.
In other words, social isolation is a concept that isn’t well programmed in us because we are meant to be social animals. The levels of oxytocin are also positively correlated with trust, which is required for social bonding and developing emotional relationships.
The Bond between the Mother and Infant
The mother-infant bonding helps release oxytocin, which has a positive impact on social behaviors. Specifically, mother’s milk, breastfeeding, and skin-to-skin contact such as hugging stimulate the release of oxytocin in the infant and mother, while elevating bonding between them. On the other hand, abnormal bonding, like a lack of hugging, could have a negative impact on the infant’s confidence and ability to establish relationships with others, and social factors that are affected by the levels of oxytocin in the body. Additionally, stressful events during the gestational period could be associated with behavioral deficits in later adulthood due to the way it affects the oxytocin systems. Namely, studies done in rats showed that the pairing of prenatally stressed mothers and offspring led to an elevation in aggressiveness and anxiety-like behavior related to reduced levels of oxytocin in the brain.
Postnatally, maternal bonding and positive social experiences in early life plays a role in healthy emotional and social development and is connected with increased resilience during stress. The levels of oxytocin in fathers and mothers of four-six-month-old infants were liked to the infant’s level of social bonding and engagement with their parents. Furthermore, higher levels of this hormone in mothers are linked to elevated mother-infant bonding, which means that bonding with your child, through hugging, elevates the levels of oxytocin in your body, thus establishing a healthier relationship between you and your baby. This can also decrease social deficits and stress as the baby grows up.
- Moberg, Kerstin. ˮThe Oxytocin Factor: Tapping The Hormone Of Calm, Love, And Healingˮ;
- Stoller, Kenneth. ˮOxytocin: The Hormone of Healing and Hope: The Hormone of Healing and Hopeˮ;