Perception of touch - Developmental and personality factors in touch avoidance

Detta är en avhandling från Faculty of Social Sciences

Sammanfattning: The studies in this doctoral thesis investigated the concept of touch avoidance. Touch avoidance indicates a person’s negative affect toward physical contact/touch. In study 1 the aim was to develop a questionnaire that measures the level of touch avoidance. The results showed that touch avoidance can be measured along five different dimensions. The results are discussed in relation to attachment theory research. In study 2 patterns of touch avoidance and communication apprehension were investigated in relation to rejection sensitivity, while considering the impact of gender. The findings imply that high rejection sensitivity individuals may use covert physical and verbal avoidance strategies in an attempt to regulate their fear and doubts with regard to being rejected. The aim of study 3 was to explore perceptions of physical touch by conducting semi-structured interviews. A touch avoidance screening form was used to select subjects with the highest scores on touch avoidance as well as those with the lowest scores, i.e. the greatest acceptance to touch, for the interviews (n = 7 in each group). The findings suggest that touch avoiders seemed to have a greater need for bodily intimacy as confirmation of the romantic partner relationship than did touch accepters. The results also showed that important categories for touch included skill, physical appearance, ambivalence and fear. The conclusions drawn from the three empirical studies are that difficulties with touch affect individuals in their daily lives, and have implications for the individual’s personal relationships and communication skills. To identify how individuals manage their early negative experiences may have consequences for their behavior later in life in their interaction with others (both non-verbal and verbal communication). Therefore it is important for future studies to further elucidate the question of the origin and development of avoidance behavior, not least because it is important to design more targeted interventions and thus reduce these individuals’ difficulties.