Science Explains Why Tickling Kids Can Be Harmful, and It Turns Out We Don’t Know Enough About It

Tickling kids can be more harmful than good. While many among us would frown upon suggesting this, a study shows that only 32% of respondents reported enjoying being tickled, with 32% giving neutral responses, and 36% saying that they disliked it. We’ve all been tickled from time to time as children, so we assume it to be normal. But remember that back in those days, not wearing a seat belt also used to be normal!

Analyzing various research conducted on this topic, MBB wants to explain why you should skip tickling and find another way to have fun — perhaps sharing a joke or playing together is a better idea.

1. Just because a child is giggling doesn’t mean they’re enjoying being tickled.

Kids, especially ticklish ones, can’t stop laughing when being tickled, even if they absolutely hate it. This reflexive laughter gives parents the illusion that the child is actually enjoying it when they’re really not. In a study conducted at the University of California in 1997, scientists found that tickling doesn’t create the same happy feelings that are created when a person laughs at a funny joke. Tickling just creates an outward illusion that a person is laughing.

2. Tickling is a way to assert dominance.

person being tickled loses self-control. The struggle to gain control can be humiliating for the child and can leave unpleasant memories for a lifetime. When adults tickle kids, they mostly mean to have fun, but that doesn’t mean the outcome won’t be harmful.

According to Dr. Richard Alexander, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan, tickling can very well be a form of dominance and the laughing that follows is an evolutionary way of showing submissiveness.

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