Throughout childhood, warm human love and touch generate an internal release of addicting and pleasurable opiates. Even teenagers (who may act as if they don't need the parents at all) must receive ongoing neural synchrony – love – from the parents. The brain and heart appear literally designed for love, with happiness and even health depending on it.
When bonding fails, it is theorized that the absence of these pleasure chemicals can leave a void, making such children especially susceptible to drugs that can also release such pleasure chemicals. The stress hormone cortisol is also released when touch and love are lacking. Sensory deprivation in mother-absent children – a form of stress that stimulates the release of cortisol – can increase susceptibility to abnormalities such as depression, violence, substance abuse, and even impaired immune response.
The most natural way mothers deal with newborns in the majority of the world is with an in-arms approach. In more primitive cultures where mothers are barely allowed a break from work to give birth, babies are swaddled to the body creating constant contact and reassurance. This bathes tissues in love hormones and encourages development of healthy neural connections, particularly as the synaptic connections in the cortex develop for the first two years of life.
These interesting links that science is revealing between mother and child are another proof that all life is holistic and intimately interconnected. The ideal holistic model is that which nature presents and it is clear that mother and child are meant to be intimate. Children cannot simply be cast off to be fed, clothed and housed as if that were enough. Society needs to take note of this important biology as more and more pressure is put on modern families and mothers to treat newborns as just another duty to schedule into the appointment book or to have serviced by a third party. By giving love the respect it deserves and making it the starting point of life, the odds are much greater that love will then blossom in children and be carried through to their children…and, who knows, perhaps continue on to the world at large. We could use a lot of that.
(Janov, Biology of Love, 2000, Prometheus Books. Odent, The Scientification of Love, 1999, Free Assn Books. Pearce, Evolution's End,1993, Harper. Amini et al, A General Theory of Love, 2001, Vintage Books. , 2003; 117.)