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

By R. Purewal, R. Christley, K. Kordas, C. Joinson, K. Meints, N. Gee, C. Westgarth

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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.

Publication Title Int J Environ Res Public Health
Volume 14
Issue 3
Pages 234
ISBN/ISSN 1660-4601
DOI 10.3390/ijerph14030234
Language English
Additional Language English
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