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Touch And Affectionate Expression

Touches eliminate the space between people, and can intensify experiences of intimacy in verbal communication or stand on their own as intimate behaviors. Stanley E. Jones and Elaine A. Yarbrough (1985) identified three types of touch that nearly always elicited intimate experience in one sample of college students. Inclusion touches, such as legs, knees, or shoulders that touched, conveyed tactile statements of togetherness. Sexual touches involved extended holding and caressing. Affectionate touches covered the widest range of touches, and were neither inclusion nor sexual touches.

Not surprisingly, some touches are more intimate than others. Face touching, for example, is more personal than handshakes, arm touches, or arms around the shoulder or waist. Jones and Yarbrough distinguished between "nonvulnerable" body parts (in the United States, this includes hands, arms, elbows, shoulders, and upper-middle back) and "vulnerable" body parts (all others). Touches on the latter are usually confined to the couple relationship and may, if done in public, signal the couple's level of intimacy ( Jones and Yarbrough 1985). Any touch is more intimate if it is prolonged.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationshipsIntimacy - Conceptions Of Intimacy, Intimate Interactions, Openness And Self-disclosure , Partner Responsiveness , Communication Of Positive Regard