An integrative review: Human chemosensory communication in the parent-child relationship

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleContributedpeer-review


Body odors serve as signals of kinship, with parents exhibiting a preference for the scent of their infants, and vice versa. The reciprocal perception of body odors can promote bonding through two mechanisms. Firstly, as an indirect pathway, through associative chemosensory learning, which leads to changes in proximity-seeking behaviors. Secondly, as a direct pathway, by eliciting the display of positive emotions, thereby reinforcing the mutual bond. Both mechanisms weaken as the child undergoes development due to changes in body odor expression and perception. This comprehensive review provides an overview of the current literature on chemosignals in the parent-child relationship, highlighting their significance in facilitating dyadic communication throughout the developmental span. Furthermore, future research perspectives are outlined to gain a better understanding of these benefits and, on the long run, derive potential interventions to strengthen parent child attachment.


Original languageEnglish
Article number105336
Pages (from-to)105336
JournalNeuroscience and biobehavioral reviews
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023

External IDs

Scopus 85166564664
ORCID /0000-0002-6555-5854/work/149798253