Violence Nonexistent in Societies Where Infants and Adolescents get Plenty of Pleasurable Touch


The primary cause of violence is deprivation of pleasurable touch during infancy, childhood and adolescence, developmental psychologist James W. Prescott concluded after decades of research into the origins of violence.

Prescott was a health scientist administrator at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development from 1966 to 1980. He created and directed a program there to study the relationship between mother-child bonding and the development of social abilities in adult life.

“I am now convinced that the deprivation of physical sensory pleasure is the principal root cause of violence,” he wrote in a 1975 article titled “Body Pleasure and the Origins of Violence.”

As evidence Prescott points to studies of lab monkeys, 400 primitive societies with various child-rearing practices, and abused American children. In short, he found the less pleasurable body contact between mother and infant, and the more repressive and punitive a society is toward premarital and extramarital sex, the more violent the society.

Lab Monkeys

“I am convinced that various abnormal social and emotional behaviors resulting from what psychologists call ‘maternal-social’ deprivation … are caused by … the deprivation of body touch, contact, and movement,” Prescott writes.

This lack of somatosensory stimulation “causes of a number of emotional disturbances which include depressive and autistic behaviors, hyperactivity, sexual aberration, drug abuse, violence, and aggression,” he says.

Prescott’s research was inspired by Harry Harlow‘s famous experiments on rhesus monkeys, which established a link between neurotic behavior and isolation from a care-giving mother.

The monkeys were separated from their mothers at birth and raised in individual cages in an animal colony room. They could develop social relationships with the other animals through seeing, hearing, and smelling, but not through touching or movement.

“These and other studies indicate that it is the deprivation of body contact and body movement—not deprivation of the other senses—that produces the wide variety of abnormal emotional behaviors,” Prescott said.

Human infants and children who receive little physical touch or holding develop almost identical abnormal behaviors, such as rocking and head banging, he said.

These and other animal experiments show that pleasure and violence have a reciprocal relationship— the presence of one inhibits the other, Prescott says. “A raging, violent animal will abruptly calm down when electrodes stimulate the pleasure centers of its brain. Likewise, stimulating the violence centers in the brain can terminate the animal’s sensual pleasure and peaceful behavior.”

Primitive Societies

R. B. Textor’s vook A Cross-Cultural Summary provides some 20,000 statistically significant correlations from a survey of 400 primitive societies.

The survey shows societies that give infants the greatest amount of physical affection were characterized by low theft, low infant physical pain, low religious activity, and negligible or absent killing, mutilating, or torturing of the enemy.

Infant physical affection, or the lack thereof, accurately predicted adult physical violence, or the lack thereof, in 36 of 49 cultures.

In the 13 societies that were exceptions to this rule, Prescott discovered another factor — repression or tolerance of premarital and extramarital sex.

The six societies characterized by both high infant affection and high violence were found to be sexually repressive.

The seven societies characterized by both low infant physical affection and low adult physical violence were all found to be characterized by permissive premarital sexual behaviors.

In short, violence may stem from deprivation of somatosensory pleasure either in infancy or in adolescence.

The percent likelihood of a society being physically violent if it is physically affectionate toward its infants and tolerant of premarital sexual behavior is zero, Prescott points out. “I am not aware of any other developmental variable that has such a high degree of predictive validity.”

Punishment of extra-marital sex is strongly associated with all of the following:

  • Large community size
  • Small family units
  • Class stratification
  • Slavery
  • Theft
  • Monogamy or Polygyny
  • Wives are purchased
  • Sexual disability
  • Castration anxiety
  • Exhibitionistic dancing
  • Narcissism
  • Killing, torturing, mutilating the enemy
  • Belief in high god of human morality

American child abuse

University of Colorado psychiatrists Brandt F. Steele and C. B. Pollock, studied child abuse in three generations of families who physically abused their children.

“They found that parents who abused their children were invariably deprived of physical affection themselves during childhood and that their adult sex life was extremely poor. Steele noted that almost without exception the women who abused their children had never experienced orgasm … How many of us feel like assaulting someone after we have just experienced orgasm?” Prescott wrote.

American college students

Prescott surveyed 96 college students to determine whether those with sexually repressive attitudes were more approving of physical violence. Of course the answer was yes.

“Respondents who rejected abortion, responsible premarital sex, and nudity within the family were likely to approve of harsh physical punishment for children and to believe that pain helps build strong moral character,” he wrote. “These respondents were likely to find alcohol and drugs more satisfying than sex.”

These attitudes are reflected in our culture’s acceptance of films that involve sexual violence and rape and rejection of films that involve sexual pleasure, Prescott says. “Apparently, sex with pleasure is immoral and unacceptable, but sex with violence and pain is moral and acceptable.”

“Unlike violence, pleasure seems to be something the world can’t get enough of,” he adds. “People are constantly in search of new forms of pleasure, yet most of our ‘pleasure’ activities appear to be substitutes for the natural sensory pleasures of touching.




22 responses to “Violence Nonexistent in Societies Where Infants and Adolescents get Plenty of Pleasurable Touch”

  1. Kenneth Huck Avatar
    Kenneth Huck

    Thank you!!!

  2. Mojo Filter Avatar
    Mojo Filter

    Good news is that this horrid state of being can be corrected within one’s own life, and of one’s own volition. I am as happy as a lark.

  3. Nicholas Sica Krenitsky Avatar
    Nicholas Sica Krenitsky

    By these retarded hippy mental gymnastics all autistics should be natural born killers. Im 24 and never had a girlfriend nor gotten into a fistfight outside of sparing with friends. Men dont rob liquor stores and shank eachother just because of blue balls. I guarantee the author of this article is some post wall washed out feminist because women who trade pussy for resources are the only ones who benefit from morally depraved societies that condone promiscuity and single parent families. Adolescent boys dont need girlfriends before they can even live independently of their parents. I bet you wont even allow this comment to be shared because there is no place but the gulag for anyone who doesnt tow the line of your gynocentric communist utopia. Go ahead and ban it just to prove me right!

    1. M Avatar

      You either hate women or hate yourself for being secretly gay. Either way, the research was done by a man so what’s your theory now

      1. Roxana Avatar

        M, hi. Of course, I am not speaking in his name here. It’s just what I perceived from reading the article and comments. I dont think he hates women, it’s the idea of promiscuity and societal conduct (in which identity politics has seeped into) that is normalized and promoted as desirable in a way that is not healthy on the longterm.
        Expressing anger at some ideas that are left to interpretation or exclude men from the equation (or generally promoting them as aggressors) makes sense.
        That doesn’t mean he hates women. He was not politically correct, and given identity politics seeping into laws as well, maybe that s good.

    2. Ana Avatar

      You just proved the hypothesis. You comment is screaming oppression and hate.

    3. Michael Avatar

      *toe the line

      You’ve never had a girlfriend because you your views on women are pretty abhorrent.

    4. Roxana Avatar

      Nicholas, hi. From the article I did perceive some leftist ideas (trying to promote abortion as a good thing, for example, which is very doubtful that it is on a general scale). I agree that there may be some ideas that perhaps are a bit of a stretch, or just presumptions, and it leaves some space open to interpretation, for example that it is bad to raise children in a complete family, with both parents involved, which is not. It’s the best way to raise children {one other leftist idea is that being a single parent, specifically mother, is to be normalized. Of course, there are individual cases, and if separation is needed for the safety of child or parent (read both mother and father), fine. But what is wrong is promoting single parenthood.}
      But I think it’s best to take the main idea, that depriving infants of physical affection does have effects on their integration in society and how they grow up as adults, hence how they behave and raise their own children. I think there are some other studies that point to the same idea as well.
      Regarding not being in a relationship until x years, thats fine, relationships and sex are not toys, although western society keeps promoting that. They’re supposed to be a serious thing and intimate and you have to trust and be trusted in relationships. Maybe I’m missing it out in the article, but from what I understand it is about sexual repression for various reasons that the author refers to, and that may not be good in terms of a person’s development, because we are animals, biologically speaking, so we work in this way too. Anyway, I think if you search on youtube Jordan B Peterson you’ll resonate with his ideas.

    5. Lessa Avatar

      Well the article is talking specifically about affectionate touch from primary caregivers and NOT romantic touch, primarily during infancy & childhood. So I don’t understand where you think this article is saying teenage boys need girlfriends or how that relates at all actually.

    6. Shae Avatar

      The pleasure mentioned relates more to positive experiences in infancy laying down the strongest neural networks in the brain, along with a peaceful social environment accepting of human nature and biological need than it does only to orgasm or sexual gratification. I found the article clear but a little clumsy, and am staggered that there are still arguments about abortion when so few resources are made available to support mothers of any age, in so many societies.
      For example, if anti-abortion activists fought harder for a world in which young people felt loved and secure (safe homes free of hateful prejudice and violence), young people would probably be less likely to fall into risk-taking behaviour such as sexual relationships in their search for intimacy, and find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy.
      This is only one example of a kind and tolerant society educating its children and teenagers in a way that does not make them fear their bodies and their needs, with the end result being autonomy, self respect and much better family planning outcomes – more often than not avoiding unwanted pregnancy on a larger scale.
      I am not an expert in these things but your comment makes me feel as though not all aspects of the article were researched or properly considered. I hope you feel empowered to look into neuroscience and societal development sometime.

  4. Bob Walker Avatar
    Bob Walker

    Well young Nicholas .. like our ancestors, the great Apes .. it is easy to throw feces from your cage, in reaction of your own thoughts, without understanding the larger premise. dont worry .. you’ll grow up

  5. Fred Avatar

    Very interesting article. Now I dont mean to be disingenuous but I am starting to believe the real divide between the political Left and the Right is about abortion. Nobody likes to be called a murderer. In effect that’s what the Right believes. So the Left works tirelessly, building a narrative that they care about people, animals, and the planet more than the big bad Right. So this touchy-feely stuff appears to supplant a home where children are not only nurtured but are trained to have principles that help them deal with difficult choices in life.

  6. COLLEEN Avatar

    I agree human touch is key to raising stable, caring,& productive humans. Isolation will cause permanent brain & physical disorders.

  7. Matt Smyth Avatar

    The first cause is (mother-infant affective deprivation) very well documented. And indeed makes perfect sense as one of the principal cause of violence among humans (leaving a question wide open: why do certain societies encourage mothers to have an inhuman behavior toward their child).
    The second cause (sexual repression) is most certainly not a cause but a consequence of living in a violent repressive patriarcal society… And that’s a very long story.

    1. shehla h naqui Avatar
      shehla h naqui

      Forcing poor mothers to leave their babies in daycare centers is being widely encouraged in USA. Breast feeding is the essential mother infant pleasurable bonding but many mothers stop breast feeding at a month age so they can return to work. For the long term benefit of society mothers of young infants should be supported to stay home!

      1. Jenni hens Avatar
        Jenni hens

        Breast is best for babies! Thank U for saying what U said ! Until we as a society realize the importance of family and begin to support our families… Our society , babies , families will continue to suffer dire consequences

  8. Toby Avatar

    Movements that address this in the US include “attachment parenting”, which emphasizes carrying or holding an infant(vs strollers, rockers, etc.) and “co-sleeping” (sleeping with the infant). Also prolonged(till 4-5yrs), regular breast-feeding. “elimination communication” is a form of early potty training, my daughter wore her last (cloth) diaper at 7 months. That might address body identity/issues.
    “The Continuum Hypothesis” book written in the 70’s, addressed many of these issues as well, with a good bit of anthropological research.

  9. Barbara Avatar

    That would be Jean Liedloff’s “The Continuum Concept.”

  10. Sarah Avatar

    I was born into the horse and buggy Mennonite culture in Pa., which is very similar to horse and buggy Amish. Punishment of pre-marital and extra-marital sex was practiced. Maybe this article explains why both of those cultures are so violent. Just kidding, of course. Although, I will say that psychological violence, which is often not as obvious as physical violence, does happen there. Human nature is everywhere – in all its forms.

  11. Laurie Avatar

    I’m not sure how accurate these experiments on primates are. Sure, isolated in a lab it would appear to makes sense. For instance: chimpanzees in the wild are very violent and even murder their own. The infants and small children cling to their mothers and are groomed daily, they get plenty of pleasurable touch and attention. Many of the primates in the wild are very violent. The only primate I know of and no I am not an expert but the only primate I know that isn’t violent are the Bonobos, they deal with stress by sexually riding each other all day. It happens constantly throughout the day.

    In humans this would be considered a sexual perversion because there is no age limit, every bonobo is fair game. Any attempts by the male bonobos to show aggression towards a female are met with all the females gathering together to ward off the aggressive male. But they still show aggression.

    It seems to me that these researchers didn’t do any study of primates behavior in the wild because they get plenty of attention and nurturing as infants and children however, they still show aggressive behavior regardless.