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Childhood animal abuse and violent criminal behavior: a brief review of the literature

By Susan M. McDonald

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The connection between cruelty to animals in childhood/early adolescence and adult violent criminal behavior has been a topic of interest for decades. Formal research on this matter began as early as the 1960s with Mead’s 1964 bulletin article including her theory “that childhood animal cruelty was symptomatic of a violent personality that, if not diagnosed and targeted, could lead to ‘a long career of episodic violence and murder’.”  This phenomenon was also studied as part of a triad including enuresis (bed wetting) and fire setting in childhood by a number of researchers. In the 1980s studies found that the association was not as significant as originally thought and triad research opened the way for the study of cruelty to animals as an independent indicator.


Katie Carroll

Date October 2011
Pages 6
Publisher Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Dept. of Correction, Office of Strategic Planning and Research
Language English
Institution Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal abuse
  2. Animal roles
  3. Animals in culture
  4. Animal welfare
  5. Cats
  6. Child behavior
  7. Children
  8. Crime
  9. Dogs
  10. Human-animal relationships
  11. Mammals
  12. Pet ownership
  13. Pets and companion animals
  14. Violence