Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Hillary Fouts

Committee Members

Brian Barber, Rena Hallam


The current study examined three types of touch (caregiving, social-affectionate, and passive) and toddlers‟ daily experience of physical interaction with caregivers among Bofi foragers, a semi-nomadic group of hunter-gatherers in Central Africa. With the purpose of describing a more holistic view of touch interactions and childhood experience in toddlers, rather than the extant Western, single-caregiver, mother-centric view, this study described the stylistic touch patterns that Bofi forager children experience and the influence of child characteristic factors (age, gender, and birth order) and social ecological factors (four types of caregivers: mother, father, adult relatives, and juvenile relatives). Based on cultural characteristics of the Bofi foragers, it was hypothesized that each type of caregiver would show a different stylistic touch pattern toward toddlers and also that the age of the child and birth order would affect the frequency of each type of touch toddlers received. A total of 35 Bofi forager children (17 boys and 18 girls; 14 firstborn children), between 18 and 59 months-old, and their various caregivers participated in this study. Naturalistic observations were conducted with Bofi forager families over 12 daylight hours while they were engaged in normal activities, and a focal child sampling technique was used for the observation of one child at a time and the recording of that child's behavior on a checklist. Frequencies of each type of touch and the rank order of types of touch that a toddler received were compared between caregivers and in relation to child characteristic factors. Results of the Bofi forager data suggest that compared to other types of caregivers, mothers have an important role in touch interactions with young children. Juvenile relatives also have a unique role in touch, which is more likely as playmates rather than alloparents. In addition, different child characteristic factors displayed different patterns in touch interactions. Children received different stylistic patterns of touch depending on age and birth order, but not gender as expected. The findings from the current study help to identify the stylistic touch pattern in Bofi forager society.

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