The relationship of attitudes about touch with depressive symptoms among women who report abuse

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Touch appears to be an important component for understanding psychological and emotional well-being, as well as the formation and maintenance of interpersonal relationships later in life. While research about touch

Touch appears to be an important component for understanding psychological and emotional well-being, as well as the formation and maintenance of interpersonal relationships later in life. While research about touch in relation to these topics is gaining momentum, there is still little evidence on the specific effects and processes that take place when touch is negative or harmful. The current study examined how women who have experienced physical or sexual abuse perceive touch in the context of interpersonal relations and in turn, how these experiences, perceptions and attitudes are related to depressive symptoms. Taking into consideration the significance of interpersonal touch, I speculated that 1) attitudes towards touch would be more negative among women who reported physical or sexual abuse than among women who did not; 2) among women who reported past abuse, increased abuse severity would predict increased current depressive symptoms; and 3) among women who reported past abuse, current attitudes towards touch would mediate the relationship between abuse severity and depressive symptoms. As predicted, results indicated that women who reported physical or sexual abuse had less positive attitudes towards touch than women who did not report any abuse. Echoing prior research, reports of childhood and adult abuse predicted increased depressive symptoms. Finally, for women who reported childhood abuse, Discomfort with Social Touch was a significant partial mediator of depressive symptoms, whereas for women who reported adult abuse, both Desire for More Partner Touch and Discomfort with Social Touch were significant partial mediators of depressive symptoms. Results suggested that negative attitudes towards general social touch, in particular, may play a strong role in mediating depressive symptoms among women who reported abuse.