Do you feel the same? The development of affective touch sensitivity in early life in a non-clinical sample of parent-infant dyads and a clinical sample of mothers with postnatal depression

Project Details


Touch has long been unnaturally omitted from parent-infant research and clinical practice. The long-lasting effects of adverse early experiences for development are well known and associated with early parental touch deprivation. The role an essential subclass of skin fibres – CT-afferents, conducting affective information about gentle touch – plays in these far-reaching effects, is yet unclear. Research relies on retrospective, cross-sectional, and laboratory studies, focusing on either the infant, mother, or at the best the mother-infant dyad, hindering a proper understanding of the development of affective touch in early life related to the context, including that of both parents’—mother ànd father. Also, to gain in-depth insight into the development of CT-afferents and their sensitivity, certain research tools are still missing.
Hence, this project aims to study CT-sensitivity dyadically and longitudinally while mapping the developmental context. We will employ a prospective study in healthy parent-infant dyads in the first 9 months of life and a clinical sample of postnatally depressed mothers using familiar psychophysiological and developing novel, remote tools to measure CT-sensitivity. We expect to uncover the existence of a sensitive window for the development of CT-sensitivity and related risk and protective factors, which will strongly advance current science on the development of affective touch, and provide valuable opportunities for prevention and intervention.
Effective start/end date1/11/2231/10/26


  • parental affective touch
  • CT-afferents
  • postnatal depression

Flemish discipline codes

  • Biological psychology
  • Psychophysiology
  • Psychopathology
  • Developmental psychology and ageing not elsewhere classified
  • Sensory processes and perception