With limits to socialising still in place, what does this mean for our health and development?
As a species we need social contact and, as long as it’s welcomed, the more we can have of it the better. However, the form it takes, and the needs it fulfils, vary across our lifespan.
Babies come into the world almost completely helpless. For some years – relatively longer than any other creature – they depend on others to feed them, keep them warm and clean, and teach them how to survive in the community.
Loving, direct care is more important to baby mammals even than nourishment.
If a baby is consistently deprived of attention from a human carer, British psychologist John Bowlby argued they could become emotionally detached; unresponsive to others.
Cognitively, too, the presence of other humans is a priority. Jerome Kagan at Harvard showed that babies as young as seven months would rather look at a human face than any other representation.
As we age, social contact becomes paramount. This is the time when we need to tell others about what we’ve done, when and with whom. It’s the time when hopefully we come to know that our efforts were appreciated. This is the basis of a number of psychological treatments for those who become depressed during their later years.
It’s the time when we need to order and share our experiences, so our history becomes a story that makes sense. In later life, just as during our younger years, social contact is a necessity, not an option.
The Daily Telegraph