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The Benefits of Pet Ownership for Single Adults in Midlife

By Lauren McGillivray

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Abstract

Pets are shown to enhance quality of life through support and companionship. Midlife is a time where pets may be most valuable, since it is a time that involves critical changes to intimate relationships, roles and status. In this article a critical review of the literature on midlife development and demographic trends was carried out. Further, the psychological literature on human-pet relationships was reviewed and integrated with midlife research. Evidence for the psychological and physical benefits of pets is examined and the implications and potential benefits for middle aged adults are discussed. Findings suggest that pets may help to reduce the loneliness and stress associated with critical transitions in midlife. This has significant implications for middle aged adults who are single and/or who live alone. There are considerable gaps in research concerning pets, particularly with regards to midlife. This article holds the potential for gaining new insight into human-pet attachment, its benefit for adults in midlife, and for investigations into broader applications of pet therapy programs. This qualitative study explored the perceived relationship between eight single middle aged adults and their pets to gain insight into the psychological importance of this relationship. In depth semi-structured interviews were conducted and interpreted using phenomenological methodology and attachment theory. Findings revealed that a sense of security and acceptance provided by pets was valuable, especially during and following transitions, such as divorce and living alone. The role of pets was found to be highly adaptable: providing stress relief during time away from people, increasing social networks, fulfilling generative concerns, and serving as a substitute for social interaction and emotional support. The findings have implications for understanding the complexities of attachment bonds, particularly with regards to human-pet attachment and the dynamics of human-pet relationships.

Submitter

Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date 2008
Pages 76
Publisher Edith Cowan University
Location of Publication Joondalup, Western Australia
Department Psychology and Social Sciences
Degree Psychology
URL http://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses_hons/1159/
Language English
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Tags
  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal roles
  3. Animals in culture
  4. Human-animal relationships
  5. Loneliness
  6. Middle age
  7. Pet ownership
  8. Pets and companion animals
  9. Service animals
  10. Stress