New research looks at emotional, educational and cognitive impacts
A review of current evidence suggests pet ownership is associated with a range of benefits to emotional health and education in children and adolescents.
Researchers from the University of Liverpool carried out an in-depth review and quality evaluation of studies looking at the influence pets have on emotional, cognitive, behavioural, educational and social development. They found youngsters with pets tended to have greater self-esteem, enhanced social skills, and were less likely to be lonely.
The impact of pet ownership on self-esteem is at its highest in children aged under six, and in pre-adolescents and adolescents over 10, according to their findings, which were published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Commenting on the findings, lead author Rebecca Purewal said: “Generally dogs and cats are deemed to be the best providers of social support, perhaps due to a higher level of interaction and reciprocation in comparison to other pets.
“In both western and non-western cultures pets may act as a form of psychological support, helping youths feel good about themselves and enabling a positive self-image.”
The researchers said there is a shortage of high quality and longitudinal studies in this area and the majority of studies in the review had methodological weaknesses. Future research should address how pet ownership promotes child development, the effects of different pet types and the impact of different pets on psychological, behavioural and social problems.
Co-author Nancy Gee, a WALTHAM researcher, added: “The patterns among sub-populations and age groups suggests that companion animals have the potential to promote healthy child and adolescent development. This is an exciting field of study and there is still much to learn about the processes through which pet ownership may impact healthy child development.”
Image courtesy of freuds