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An investigation of the Rusbult Investment Model of commitment in relationships with pets

By Z. G. Baker, W. E. Petit, C. M. Brown

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The present research examines relationships between people and their pets through the lens of the Rusbult Investment Model. The Rusbult Investment Model identifies important antecedents to commitment in a relationship: satisfaction with the relationship, quality of alternatives to the relationship, and investments in the relationship. In turn, commitment predicts enactment of behaviors that involve forgoing one's own needs to benefit one's relationship. Among these behaviors are forgiving transgressions, accommodating undesirable behaviors, and sacrificing for the sake of one's relationship partner. Recent research has revealed that pets benefit humans through conferral of social support. By examining commitment processes in human-pet relationships, relationship duration may be maximized, leading to greater benefits for both the human and the pet. The present research surveyed pet owners about their relationship with their pet (e.g., feelings of commitment, investment) and their willingness to engage in pro-relationship behaviors (e.g., forgiveness, accommodation). Regression analyses revealed that human-pet relationships operate in a similar fashion to human-human relationships in terms of both the predictors and outcomes of commitment. This effect was observed across a range of behaviors, among different types of pets (i.e., dogs, cats, and one fish), and in the context of both current and former relationships. These results suggest that increasing satisfaction and investments and decreasing the perceived quality of one's alternatives, either individually or in tandem, may benefit human-pet relationships. The findings are discussed in terms of the role these factors may play in pet abandonment and its costs to animal wellbeing. This discourse erects a call for experimental and intervention-focused research that might draw upon both the present and past research on commitment to pets.

Date 2016
Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 29
Issue 2
Pages 193-204
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
DOI 10.1080/08927936.2015.1092732
Author Address Department of Psychology, The University of Houston, 3695 Cullen Boulevard, Room 126, Houston, TX 77204-5022,
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Baker, Z. G.; Petit, W. E.; Brown, C. M. (2016), "An investigation of the Rusbult Investment Model of commitment in relationships with pets,"

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  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animals
  3. Animal science
  4. Anthrozoology
  5. Behavioral research
  6. Canidae
  7. Canine
  8. Carnivores
  9. Cats
  10. Conflict
  11. Costs
  12. Dogs
  13. Human behavior
  14. Humans
  15. Mammals
  16. Men
  17. models
  18. Pets and companion animals
  19. predictions
  20. Primates
  21. Psychiatry and psychology
  22. Public administration
  23. Public Services
  24. Relationships
  25. Social psychology and social anthropology
  26. social welfare
  27. vertebrates
  28. Zoology