Lay article about this research: Daily physical touch from a romantic partner enhances well-being, particularly among those with attachment anxiety

Social Psychological and Personality Science

June 18, 2020

Cheryl L. Carmichael, Matthew H. Goldberg, and Maureen A. Coyle

Affectionate touch is crucial to the development of attachment security in infancy, yet little is known about how attachment and touch are related in adulthood. For adults high in anxiety, touch provision can maintain proximity, and received touch can signal reassurance of a partner’s affections that relatively anxious people desperately desire. Adults high in avoidance likely view touch as a threat to independence, should be less inclined to provide touch, and may perceive received touch as intrusive. In two studies, we demonstrated that attachment anxiety was associated with positive feelings about touch but unrelated to daily touch provision. However, the benefits associated with daily received touch were amplified among people higher in anxiety. Conversely, attachment avoidance was associated with negative feelings about touch, and reductions in daily touch provision, but did not moderate the benefits associated with received touch.