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A new study shows the transgenerational nature of touch

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'Touch inequalities' are often transmitted through generations, a new study from the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Tampere has revealed.

The study is based on material from touch biographies’ written by ordinary Finnish people of various backgrounds. In their accounts, authors narrate their lives through the ways in which they have touched, been touched, experienced touch and been socialised to touch. The research shows that the way we feel about being touched, and the way we touch others, are shaped by our personal and generational affective history.

Economic and material conditions, historical events and ideological trends leave their marks on affective processes. By analysing Finnish touch biographies, the researchers explored how norms related to touch are reproduced and renewed through embodied emotions, i.e. affects.
 
The absence of a caring touch
 
“The Finnish affective history is shaped by war years and childcare ideals where the absence of a caring touch was prominent,” University Lecturer Taina Kinnunen from the University of Eastern Finland explains. "Remarkably many older authors describe having suffered from affective coldness and a lack of touch. However, this kind of an affective pattern was probably the only way to survive the hard times. The need to manage alone developed into a social virtue. ‘The strong manage alone, the weak in each other’s laps’ is a traditional Finnish saying, found with many variations.
 
"Due to their different life experiences, individuals may register similar kinds of touch in different ways. On the other hand, a single affectively strong touch may transform a person’s repertoire. For example, a person may feel that a sudden caring touch is life-saving."

Research article:
Kinnunen, T., & Kolehmainen, M. (2018). Touch and Affect: Analysing the Archive of Touch Biographies. Body & Society.

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