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Acceptability of animal-assisted therapy: attitudes toward AAT, psychotherapy, and medication for the treatment of child disruptive behavioral problems

By S. M. Rabbitt, A. E. Kazdin, J. Hong

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Abstract

Animal-assisted therapies (AATs) are not widely promoted in routine mental healthcare but represent a viable treatment option given positive perceptions of pets and growing evidence that animals provide meaningful contribution to psychological wellbeing. Relatively little is known about the general public's attitude toward AATs, especially in relation to more commonly used alternatives. This study compared the acceptability of four different treatment options (AAT, medication, psychotherapy, and no active treatment) for common externalizing behaviors in children. Parents from a community sample ( N=189) were presented with vignettes describing a child with symptoms of an externalizing behavior disorder and were asked to rate the acceptability of the four different treatment options. Participants rated AAT as a highly acceptable form of treatment and more acceptable than no active treatment and medication. However, AAT was rated as less acceptable than psychotherapy. Experiences with animals (both positive and negative) were unrelated to the acceptability of AAT. These findings suggest that AAT is viewed as a highly acceptable form of treatment for common externalizing behaviors and should be more systematically investigated as a treatment for children's mental health problems.

Date 2014
Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 27
Issue 3
Pages 335-350
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
Publisher Bloomsbury
DOI 10.2752/175303714x13903827487881
Author Address Department of Psychology, Yale University, 2 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven, CT 06520-8205, USA.sarah.rabbbit@yale.edu
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animals
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Anthrozoology
  5. Attitudes
  6. Children
  7. Diseases and injuries of animals
  8. Health
  9. Humans
  10. Illnesses
  11. Mammals
  12. Men
  13. Mental disorders
  14. parents
  15. Pets and companion animals
  16. Primates
  17. Social psychology and social anthropology
  18. Symptoms
  19. therapy
  20. vertebrates