One important aspect of a child's relationship with his or her body is the feeling of body ownership. We often take for granted that we have a body, and that that body is ours. However, this sensation of body ownership can easily be disrupted.
Body ownership is defined as the subjective sensation that my body belongs to “me”. This concept comes from fundamental neuroscience research into how the brain represents the body. Many studies have shown that this seemingly robust feeling of your body being yours can be relatively easily disrupted. When this happens, it has been found to influence a range of important psychological and physiological processes, including 1) the localisation of our limbs in space, 2) homeostatic thermoregulation, 3) motor control, and 4) pain. Importantly, body ownership is not the same as body image. Body image involves how we feel psychologically about our body and its appearance (often in relation to societal ideals) and has been frequently studied in relation to (paediatric) cancer. Body ownership is the sensation of your body belonging to you, and it is fundamental for our everyday psychological as well as motor functioning. Despite its clear importance to development and well-being, to date it has not been investigated in children.
In collaboration with the Children's Cancer Centre at the Royal Children's Hospital, we are currently preparing a study to investigate the sense of body ownership in both healthy children and childhood cancer survivors.