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This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Email Facebook Instagram Pinterest Twitter. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your email address will not be published. Get our posts via email Please stay in touch! You might also like to read…. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. Other aspects of attachment relationships e. To enable all children to answer the SAPS they could answer about a pet they had or a hypothetical pet this could be a pet they used to have or one owned by a relative.

Our research indicates differences in attachment between children who currently have pets and those who do not. Further analysis could explore in more depth differences in pet attachment between current pet owners and those who currently do not have a pet, but perhaps have had a pet previously, wish to own a pet, or have a strong connection to a pet owned by someone else relative, friend, or neighbour.

It would also be interesting to look at differences between how children respond to the items within SAPS in relation to different pets e. It would be interesting to use this measure in samples outside the UK to examine its cross-cultural reliability and to complement SAPS with other measures of pet attachment using mixed methods approaches.


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Although research on attachment to pets is expanding, there are still inconsistent results [ 92 ] which may be due to the use of different measures of attachment. Developing and refining age-appropriate measures for child-animal interaction research remains a priority for research. In a short survey it is not possible to capture data on all variables of potential interest.

In this study we did not consider family dynamics such as dual or single-parent families and sibling status, which could have influenced attachment scores children in single parent families and youngest children show greater attachment to their pets [ 63 , 93 ].

Although we used a diverse sample from across Scotland that included a variety of ethnicities and religions we did not include measures of ethnicity, religion, or cultural background, which have been shown to influence human-animal interactions [ 85 ]. Although causation cannot be inferred from cross-sectional data, the strong statistical associations between pet attachment and caring behaviour found here suggest that encouraging children to participate in pet care behaviour may have a range of positive outcomes for both children such as better well-being, quality of life and pets such as better welfare and humane treatment.

Overall, this study enhances our understanding of childhood attachment to pets, but further research is required to examine how and when children form attachments to animals and how we might promote positive attachment to pets. We thank the schools, children, parents, and teachers who were involved for their invaluable time and collaboration. Roxanne Hawkins prepared and analysed the data, and led the writing of this paper. Joanne M. Williams designed the study, developed the questionnaire, and co-wrote the paper.

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National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Published online May 6. Roxanne D. Paul B. Tchounwou, Academic Editor. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer.

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Received Mar 6; Accepted Apr Keywords: attachment, attitudes, children, compassion, humane behaviour, pets. Introduction This study focuses on the under-researched topic of childhood attachment to pets. Human Attachment and Attachment to Pets Children are biologically pre-programmed to form emotional attachments with human caregivers to enable their survival [ 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ].

Direct Contact with Animals and Attachment to Pets Direct contact with animals during childhood, such as caring for pets, may foster the development of attachment to pets. The Present Study Recent research has highlighted the lack of studies into childhood attachment to pets. This study considers four research questions: Are there socio-demographic differences in childhood attachment to pets? Is pet ownership and pet type important in attachment between children and pets? Materials and Methods 2. Questionnaire Measures 2. Open in a separate window. Procedure All children completed the questionnaire within their school classroom approximately 15 min to complete.

Descriptive Statistics The majority of children displayed high attachment to their pets, or would if they had pets, with Table 3 Descriptive statistics for socio-demographic variables. Note: FA: family affluence. M: mean; SD: standard deviation. Table 4 Results from t -tests examining differences in attachment scores for pet ownership. Pet Type and Attachment to Pet Scores Descriptive statistics Table 4 shows that children with dogs scored the highest on attachment, followed by cats, small mammals, other e. Relations between Pet Care, Pet Attachment, Compassion, and Attitudes to Pets Regression analyses were conducted to establish whether there were associations between scores for attachment to pets and caring behaviour, friendship behaviour, compassion, and attitudes.

Table 5 Results from regression analysis for attachment to pets.

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Figure 1. Discussion The aim of this study was to investigate the relationships between childhood attachment to pets, pet care, compassion to animals, and attitudes towards animals. Limitations and Future Directions This was a large-scale questionnaire study using self-report data and thus might be subject to response biases such as social desirability, potential peer influence, and demand characteristics.

Acknowledgments We thank the schools, children, parents, and teachers who were involved for their invaluable time and collaboration. Author Contributions Roxanne Hawkins prepared and analysed the data, and led the writing of this paper. Conflicts of Interest The authors declare no conflict of interest. References 1. Bretherton I. Attachment theory: Retrospect and prospect.

Child Dev. Bowlby J. Attachment and Loss: Vol. Attachment and Loss. Fairbairn W. An Object-Relations Theory of the Personality. Goodman R. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Meins E.

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Mind-mindedness as a multidimensional construct: Appropriate and nonattuned mind-related comments independently predict infant—mother attachment in a socially diverse sample. Sable P. The pet connection: An attachment perspective. Work J. Ainsworth M. Patterns of attachment behavior shown by the infant in interaction with his mother.

Merrill-Palmer Q. McGoron L. Recovering from early deprivation: Attachment mediates effects of caregiving on psychopathology. Child Psychol. Thompson K. Prosocial and antisocial behaviors in adolescents: An investigation into associations with attachment and empathy. Schimmenti A. Linking lack of care in childhood to anxiety disorders in emerging adulthood: The role of attachment styles. Child Adolesc. Hoeve M. Meta-analysis of attachment to parents and delinquency. Hawkins R. Harlow H. The development of affective responsiveness in infant monkeys.

Beck L. Romantic partners and four legged friends: An extension of attachment theory to relationships with pets. Carr S. Fostering secure attachment: Experiences of animal companions in the foster home.


  1. Be Kind to Animals: Encouraging Compassion through Humane Education | About ALA.
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  8. Hazan C. Sex and the psychological tether. In: Bartholomew K. Jessica Kingsley; London, UK: Kwong M. Zilcha-Mano S. Pets as safe havens and secure bases: The moderating role of pet attachment orientations. Messent P. Social facilitation of contact with other people by pet dogs; pp.

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    Parish-Plass N. Animal-assisted therapy with children suffering from insecure attachment due to abuse and neglect: A method to lower the risk of intergenerational transmission of abuse. Cassels M.

    Above All Be Kind Raising A Humane Child In Challenging Times Zoe Weil

    One of the family? Measuring early adolescents' relationships with pets and siblings. Pets, attachment, and well-being across the life cycle. Strand E. Interparental conflict and youth maladjustment: The buffering effects of pets. Stress Trauma Crisis. Melson G.

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    Muldoon J. Borgi M. Baby schema in human and animal faces induces cuteness perception and gaze allocation in children. Glocker M. Baby schema modulates the brain reward system in nulliparous women. Lorenz K. Archer J. Why do people love their pets? Burnham D. On talking to babies and animals. Preferences for infant facial features in pet dogs and cats. An attachment perspective on human—pet relationships: Conceptualization and assessment of pet attachment orientations.

    Horn L. The importance of the secure base effect for domestic dogs—Evidence from a manipulative problem-solving task. Marsa-Sambola F. Child Indic. Garrity T. Pet ownership and attachment as supportive factors in the health of the elderly. Muschel I. Pet therapy with terminal cancer patients. Cindy provides solid, beneficial information in a practical format. Cindy is capable of quickly sizing up her attendees and is able to accommodate their level of understanding and needs providing solutions or suggestions where necessary.

    This series provided current research and a level of understanding for all stake holders. On behalf of the children that I work with, again, I thank you very much for this opportunity!