Companion animals and child/adolescent development: A systematic review of the evidence

Rebecca Purewal, Robert Christley, Katarzyna Kordas, Carol Joinson, Kerstin Meints, Nancy Gee, Carri Westgarth

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

43 Scopus citations

Abstract

Childhood and adolescence are important developmental phases which influence health and well-being across the life span. Social relationships are fundamental to child and adolescent development; yet studies have been limited to children’s relationships with other humans. This paper provides an evidence review for the potential associations between pet ownership and emotional; behavioural; cognitive; educational and social developmental outcomes. As the field is in the early stages; a broad set of inclusion criteria was applied. A systematic search of databases and grey literature sources found twenty-two studies meeting selection criteria. The review found evidence for an association between pet ownership and a wide range of emotional health benefits from childhood pet ownership; particularly for self-esteem and loneliness. The findings regarding childhood anxiety and depression were inconclusive. Studies also showed evidence of an association between pet ownership and educational and cognitive benefits; for example, in perspective-taking abilities and intellectual development. Evidence on behavioural development was unclear due to a lack of high quality research. Studies on pet ownership and social development provided evidence for an association with increased social competence; social networks; social interaction and social play behaviour. Overall, pet ownership and the significance of children’s bonds with companion animals have been underexplored; there is a shortage of high quality and longitudinal studies in all outcomes. Prospective studies that control for a wide range of confounders are required.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number234
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Volume14
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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