20 Jun

Book Review: The Hormone of Closeness, by Kerstin Uvnas Moberg

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.


To order The Hormone of Closeness with a 25% discount, just follow the link and use the discount code KH25 at the checkout.

[Disclosure: review copy provided by publisher]