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Animal-assisted interventions in children's hospitals: a critical review of the literature

By A. Chur-Hansen, M. McArthur, H. Winefield, E. Hanieh, S. Hazel

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Abstract

There is a perception in the scientific and general communities that hospitalized children benefit from visits by animals. Animal-assisted interventions (AAI), including animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted activities, usually involving dogs, are thus employed in pediatric hospitals. However, the actual prevalence of AAI in children's hospitals has been poorly documented in the literature. Furthermore, the evidence base for claims that children in hospital benefit from AAI is limited. There are nine existing research studies in the area, all with methodological challenges that make conclusive statements in either direction about the efficacy of AAI difficult. In this critical review we consider methodological considerations pertinent to evaluations of AAI interventions for hospitalized children. These include: definitions and terminology; cultural attitudes; children's receptivity to animals, including phobia, type of illness and health status of the child, familiar as opposed to unknown animals, and age of the child; animal welfare; zoonoses and allergies; and hospital staff attitudes toward AAI. We highlight the many difficulties involved in conducting research on AAI in pediatric settings. Given the limited information around AAI for hospitalized children, including the risks and benefits and the limitations of existing studies, future research is required. This should take into account the methodological considerations discussed in this review, so that our knowledge base can be enhanced and if and where appropriate, such interventions be implemented and rigorously evaluated.

Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 27
Issue 1
Pages 5-18
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
DOI 10.2752/175303714x13837396326251
Language English
Author Address School of Psychology, University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia.anna.churhansen@adelaide.edu.au
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Tags
  1. Allergy
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal diseases
  4. Animal health and hygiene
  5. Animal immunology
  6. Animals
  7. Animal welfare
  8. Anthrozoology
  9. Attitudes
  10. Canidae
  11. Canine
  12. Carnivores
  13. Children
  14. Communities
  15. Diseases and injuries of animals
  16. Dogs
  17. Health
  18. Health services
  19. Hospitals
  20. Humans
  21. Immunology
  22. Incidence
  23. Interventions
  24. Literature reviews
  25. Mammals
  26. Men
  27. Methodologies
  28. Parasites
  29. peer-reviewed
  30. personnel
  31. Pets and companion animals
  32. Primates
  33. Research
  34. Reviews
  35. Social psychology and social anthropology
  36. Techniques
  37. terminology
  38. therapy
  39. vertebrates
  40. Wild animals
  41. youth
  42. Zoonoses
Badges
  1. peer-reviewed