When ‘moral panic’ becomes your problem

The research is clear: positive touch is crucial to the emotional development of children. And yet, in schools, high-profile safeguarding failures and cultural movements such as #MeToo have seen touch of any kind strongly discouraged. So where does that leave teachers? Zofia Niemtus investigates

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The baby monkeys had a choice: a “mother” made of wire with a feeding bottle, but who could not be easily “cuddled”; or a “mother” made of soft cloth who they could snuggle into, but who did not provide food. Watching which they chose – and monitoring the impact of that choice then and later – was US psychologist Harry Harlow.

What Harlow found in this experiment and others (including one in which the hours-old monkeys were given one of the two “mothers” only) was that the monkeys that could cuddle a soft cloth “mother” were more capable of managing their emotions, and grew into better ...

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