Infants show physiological responses specific to parental hugs


Sachine Yoshida, Yoshihiro Kawahara, Takuya Sasatani, Ken Kiyono, Yo Kobayashi, Hiromasa Funato


Caregivers hug their infants to express affection and joy. However, it remains unknown how infants react to being hugged. Here we examined heart rate responses in first-year infants during a hug, hold, and tight hug from parents. Infants older than four months showed an increased R-R interval (RRI) during a hug, indicating reduced heart rates and pronounced parasympathetic activity. Few head movements predicted a higher RRI increase in infants during a parental hug compared with that during a hold and tight hug. Infants did not show an increased RRI during a hug from a female stranger. Infants younger than four months did not show RRI increase during parental hug but exhibited a decreased RRI correlated with contact pressure. Parents showed an increased RRI during hugging their infants. These results suggest the parent-infant hug underlies the parent-infant bonding and psychophysiological development of infants.