Receiving a hug is associated with the attenuation of negative mood that occurs on days with interpersonal conflict

PLoS One. 2018 Oct 3;13(10):e0203522. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0203522. eCollection 2018.


Interpersonal touch is emerging as an important topic in the study of adult relationships, with recent research showing that such behaviors can promote better relationship functioning and individual well-being. This investigation considers whether being hugged is associated with reduced conflict-related decreases in positive affect and increases in negative affect as well as whether these associations differ between women and men. A sample of 404 adults were interviewed every night for 14 consecutive days about their conflicts, hug receipt, and positive and negative affect. Results indicated that there was an interaction between hug receipt and conflict exposure such that receiving a hug was associated with a smaller conflict-related decrease in positive affect and a smaller conflict-related increase in negative affect when assessed concurrently. Hug receipt was also prospectively associated with a smaller conflict-related increase in next day negative affect but was not associated with next day positive affect. Associations between hug receipt and conflict-related changes in affect did not differ between women and men, between individuals who were married or in a marital-like relationship and those who were not, or as a function of individual differences in baseline perceived social support. While correlational, these results are consistent with the hypothesis that hugs buffer against deleterious changes in affect associated with experiencing interpersonal conflict. Possible mechanisms through which hugs facilitate positive adaptation to conflict are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Behavior / physiology
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Touch / physiology
  • Young Adult