A new study shows what many people have known for a long time; pets are a child’s best friend. According to a published report in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, children get more satisfaction from relationships with their pets than with their brothers and sisters. The University of Cambridge study was conducted in collaboration with the WALTHAM Center for Pet Nutrition, part of Mars Petcare and the Economic and Social Research Council as part of a larger study, led by Professor Claire Hughes.
The research shows increasing evidence that household pets might have a major influence on child development as well as a positive impact on children’s social skills and emotional well-being. Since pets are becoming as common as siblings in western households, it is important to study the effect these animals have on young people.
If you had a childhood pet, you probably recall times when they were the only one who seemed to understand what you were going through. Researchers wanted to know how strong these relationships are with pets in comparison to other family ties. This is going to help them understand how the human/animal bond can contribute to healthy childhood development.
The research was conducted with 12-year-olds from 77 families with one or more pets of any type and more than one child in the home. Children reported strong relationships with their pets compared to their siblings. Lower conflicts and greater satisfaction was reported with dogs over other types of pets.
Pets might not understand or respond verbally but the ability to disclose feelings to pets was no less than that of a brother or sister. It might be the fact that pets can’t talks back that is so beneficial because they are non-judgmental. Previous research had shown the bond stronger with boys and their pets however this new research shows that not to be the case. Girls are more likely to disclose secrets to their pets which is very helpful during adolescence.
According to WALTHAM researcher Nancy Gee who co-authored the study, “Evidence continues to grow showing that pets have positive benefits on human health and community cohesion. The social support that adolescents receive from pets may well support psychological well-being later in life but there is still more to learn about the long-term impact of pets on children’s development.”
What do you think about this study? Was there a particular pet that you loved growing up that made a difference in your adult life? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
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