The nature and psychological impact of child/adolescent attachment to dogs compared with other companion animals
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Building on a study examining children’s knowledge and care of companion animals, this paper examines emotional attachment to dogs. It uses a large-scale dataset on children’s health and well-being (n = 6,700) to explore the connection between attachment to dogs, compared with other companion animals, and a range of well-being indicators. Findings reveal stronger attachments to dogs that are linked with well-being. Some associations are also evident for children reporting a strong bond with small mammals. A mixed pattern of results is evident for cats, and no associations were apparent for those with fish, reptiles or amphibians. Relationships with dogs appear distinctive; children’s sense of emotional reciprocity and shared enjoyment of play, acting as possible mechanisms by which attachment translates into benefits. Emotional connections to all types of animal weaken with age. This may be due to the changing nature of attachment as children move through adolescence.
Journal Title/Title of Proceedings
Society and Animals