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Risk indicators for grief symptoms after the death of a pet: Does quality of attachment make a difference?

By Christine Marie Henry

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Abstract Animal-human companionship has been an undervalued relationship in the field of psychology. People can form strong attachments to pets, and as a result, the death of a pet can be a devastating experience. The limited literature that exists on pet loss in the field of psychology leaves many unanswered questions regarding what individual and contextual factors predict grief symptoms following the death of a pet. One key variable, which has been examined in veterinary literature, is attachment. However, the conceptualization and measurement of attachment in such literature differs greatly from the way attachment is typically conceptualized in the field of psychology. In addition, the majority of studies on pet death loss have failed to use sound grief measures. Using a psychometrically sound measure of grief, the present investigation examined the predictive power of a number of individual and contextual factors, including the quality of pet attachment as it is measured in psychology, with regard to grief symptoms. The data provided evidence that quality of attachment, specifically secure and dismissing attachment, does add to the prediction of grief symptoms. However, the contextual variables as a set (i.e., time since death, attachment level, and perceived preventability of the death) were the strongest predictors of grief symptoms. The findings also suggested a relationship between quality of attachment to the caregiver and quality of attachment to pet. More specifically, preoccupied and fearful caregiver attachment was related to preoccupied pet attachment, but dismissing caregiver attachment was not related to preoccupied pet attachment. However, the path from preoccupied attachment to pet and grief symptoms was not significant. ^

Stephanie Schaffner

Location of Publication Lafayette, IN
Language English
University Purdue University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Affective symptoms
  2. Animal roles
  3. Attachment
  4. Death
  5. Grief
  6. Pet loss
  7. Pets and companion animals