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The Perceived Psychosocial Benefits of Pet Ownership on Child Development: A Parental Perspective

By Erin K. Leahy

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The purpose of this review is to explore the beneficial role pets play in facilitating the psychosocial development of preadolescent children. It is proposed that the pet is perceived by both the child and parent as a developmental resource during preadolescent development, as it assists the child in accomplishing key developmental tasks such as responsibility and autonomy, socialisation and the development of humanistic qualities. This review also highlights the importance of pets in assisting preadolescents develop self esteem and identity, and examines how pets give children new perspective on important life matters such as birth, illness and death. Attainment of these developmental tasks ensures a smooth transition into adolescence for the child. Limitations and implications for future research are noted. A qualitative inquiry was conducted to explore the perceived psychosocial benefits of pet ownership on child development, from a parental perspective. Eight parents of primary school aged pet-owning children were interviewed about their child's pet owning experiences. The transcripts were analysed according to the systematic inductive process as postulated by Miles and Huberman (1994). Inductive data analysis revealed positive experiences on many levels, with three major themes regarding the perceived benefits of pet ownership for child development. These included the influence of the parent's pet owning experience; the perceived role of pets as affectionate bond-building human surrogates; and the use of pets for teaching children about the importance of respect for life. Limitations and implications for future research are discussed.


Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date 2007
Pages 67
Publisher Edith Cowan University
Location of Publication Joondalup, Western Australia
Department Computing, Health and Science
Degree Psychology
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal roles
  3. Animals in culture
  4. Children
  5. Health
  6. Pet ownership
  7. Pets and companion animals
  8. Psychosocial Development
  9. self esteem
  10. Socialization