Women Who Experience More Affectionate Touch Report Better Body Satisfaction and Relationship Outcomes

Jessica T. Campbell, Margaret Bennett-Brown, Ellen M. Kaufman, Amanda N. Gesselman, David A. Frederick, Justin R. Garcia, Kristen P. Mark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Affectionate touch (e.g. hugging, handholding) is an essential component of many intimate relationships and is a primary contributor to overall relationship satisfaction as well as sexual satisfaction. Affectionate touch is understood to be a form of non-verbal communication in which the giver is expressing positive feelings toward the receiver. Here, we propose that affectionate touch also positively impacts receivers’ body satisfaction, because affectionate touch is a positive message communicated toward the receiver’s body. In a cross-sectional sample of romantically partnered women (N = 1,156), we assessed the association between affectionate touch frequency and body satisfaction. We also investigated whether affectionate touch is associated with relationship/sexual satisfaction in part because touch helps to improve women’s evaluations of their own bodies. Our results showed that body satisfaction was a significant, partial mediator and a valid path through which affectionate touch shapes relationship quality. Receiving affectionate touch could bolster relationship satisfaction and self-perceptions among women. Given the prevalence of body dissatisfaction amongst women, these results suggest that the underexplored associations between affectionate touch and body satisfaction may have significant impacts on a wide array of future empirical and applied research trajectories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Sex Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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