The purpose of this research was to investigate the association between childhood experiences with family pets and psychosocial functioning in early adulthood. The Exposure to Pet Aggression Scale (EPAS) was developed to provide a multidimensional measure of exposure to pet aggression in childhood. In Study 1, the psychometric properties of new and modified scales were evaluated and found to appropriate for use in the main study. In Study 2, university students (n = 318) completed measures to assess bonding with childhood pets, exposure to pet aggression in childhood, and current psychosocial functioning (empathy, interpersonal aggression, anxiety, depression). A series of ANCOVA analyses was conducted, with measures of child maltreatment included as covariates. Results revealed that participants who had stronger bonds with childhood pets had significantly higher empathy scores than those with lower bonds; exposure to pet aggression was not significantly associated with empathy. A significant interaction was observed between pet bonding and exposure to pet aggression for the anxiety and depression dependent variables. Among participants who were exposed to pet aggression, those with medium-level bonds had higher depression and anxiety scores compared to those with low-level bonds. Among participants who were not exposed to pet aggression, those with medium-level bonds had lower depression and anxiety scores compared to those with low-level bonds. The results for participants with high-level bonds were unexpected. Experiences with childhood pets were not significantly associated with interpersonal aggression. The results of this study may have implications for mental health intervention and child protection.
|Publisher||Carleton University (Canada)|
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