The Hormone of Closeness offers an exciting physiological perspective on intimacy and relationships. The closeness hormone, oxytocin, give us comfort and peace, but it also creates and reinforces relationships throughout life. Based on current research, Kerstin Uvnäs Moberg, the author of the ground-breaking The Oxytocin Factor, describes the importance of oxytocin in the connection between parents and children, in love and companionship and in increasing trust in our society.
The author argues that oxytocin plays a crucial part in our ability to socialise, feel secure and calm, work well and be healthy. She investigates the effects of oxytocin in pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, and looks at the role of oxytocin in the mother-child relationship and its long-term benefits.
Oxytocin also has an important role to play in adult relationships. It creates a bond between lovers and stimulates social interaction allowing us to form friendships and work in groups. The sense of trust triggered by oxytocin enables us to trust in strangers and accounts for the Doula phenomenon. The relationship between food and closeness is explored, and we learn how the hormone of closeness can offer the key to good health and a longer life.
Posted by Emma on 16th Aug 2013
More to read on oxytocin! It really is a fascinating hormone and Moberg writes about it very well. One of those books that makes you think about how you parent and socialise, and explains why oxytocin is important in development of relationships. I am aware of the role of oxytocin in breastfeeding but this book explains the role of this fascinating hormone in a lot of detail and in many different situations. Ask any breastfeeding mother and I'm sure they'd tell you that breastfeeding is about so much more than nutrition. The book looks at how beneficial the closeness is for the mother as well as the child.
There are useful diagrams and Moberg explains herself very well. The world would generally be a happier place with more oxytocin around. I will certainly be ensuring I release as much as possible especially as it is linked to a healthier and longer life.
Posted by Beth W on 23rd Jun 2013
An interesting book about the importance of natural oxytocin, how it makes us feel good, stay healthy and maintain good relationships.
As a breastfeeding mother, I was particularly interested in the information on breastfeeding and the importance of touch and closeness (which produces oxytocin) for our children. Discovering more about why oxytocin is important, particularly when children are young, has led me to thinking more about ensuring I spend as much time as possible cuddling and being near my children.
I would be fascinated to hear the answer to the question posed in the final chapter (p158) "...what happens in countries where mothers may not be close to their babies after birth, do not breastfeed and...go back to work almost immediately? Are we going to see different types of mothers under such circumstances?" I hope Moberg may be able to answer this question in her next book!
Posted by Karen Hall on 11th Jun 2013
The Hormone of Closeness: The role of oxytocin in relationships, is the second book I've read by Kerstin Uvnas Moberg on the subject of oxytocin, the hormone involved in childbirth, bonding and so much more.
Moberg posits an explanation of attachment theory wherein oxytocin underpins the child's sense of security through enhanced wellbeing, increased calm, and a sense of satisfaction. She terms the innate and evolutionarily necessary need for closeness and contact with others as "skin hunger," to equate it with hunger for food. This casts touch and its effects in a useful new light, showing how breastfeeding is about so much more than the transfer of milk, for the mother and the baby.
While much of the evidence in the book is drawn from lab studies on rats, her arguments are logical and compelling. Lay readers might skip the scientific stuff about what goes on in the brain, and read instead the fascinating description of the mother-baby relationship in the first place, which is then drawn into the wider context of our social interactions, stress levels, and the way we live.
Looking forward to the implications of the development of synthetic oxytocin, Moberg acknowledges that artificially increasing oxytocin levels, thereby increasing the tendency to trust, might not always be a good thing, particularly in a setting where we would not naturally be trusting. Evidently it would be better for the individual, and for society as a whole, to find natural ways to increase the world's oxytocin levels. To illustrate this, she looks at the doula phenomenon, where a trusted woman present at birth can have a positive outcome, by allowing the birthing mother to tune into her body and allow levels of oxytocin to rise, facilitating labour and bonding with the new baby.
She finishes by looking at the possible consequences of our increasingly separate lives, and with a call on behalf of future generations to consider how to bring back social closeness, that "all of us on earth could live in peace and harmony with one another." [p157]. This is an enlightening and affirming read.
Posted by Tamara L on 9th Jun 2013
As a nursing mother I am very aware of the benefits and effects of oxytocin in childbirth and the nursing relationship, however, I hadn’t really considered the wider role that this wonderful hormone plays in all human relationships, and beyond to the animal kingdom. In the ‘Hormone of Closeness’ Moberg demonstrates just how important oxytocin is for developing bonds, a sense of trust, improving our emotional and physical wellbeing. She explores how it could be used to help people with social disorders, anxiety, stress-related illnesses – pretty exciting stuff.
The book gets a bit technical in places, but I guess that’s to be expected given the subject matter – plus, there are helpful diagrams which go some way in helping those who don’t know their amygdala from their hippocampus.
Worth a read.