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The Interspecies Family: Attitudes and Narratives

By Nicole Lynne Owens

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Families are conceptualized and accomplished in increasingly diverse ways in the 21st century. A constructionist framework was utilized to examine a widespread contemporary family form, the interspecies family. This mixed-method approach relied on both quantitative survey data and qualitative interview data. First, survey data from the 2006 Constructing the Family Survey were analyzed to understand who in America counts pets as family. Many social demographics were associated and predicted counting pets as family but gender was one of the strongest associations. However, marital status moderated the relationship between gender and counting pets as family at a statically significant level. Men who are currently or have ever been married are less likely to count pets as family than never married men. Second, I conducted 32 semi-structured, in-depth interviews with 39 people during 2014-2015 in Central Florida to understand how people who count their cats and dogs as family members narrate this process. Narrative strategies documenting exactly how cats and dogs become family members within interspecies family narratives include: time-related narratives, timeless narratives, and patchwork narratives. Additionally, all participants considered their cats and dogs family but only some of them felt like pet-parents. Narratives of childless participants are compared with narratives of parents to examine the impact of family form on the construction of pet parenting narratives. Implications for the family change literature are discussed.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Pages 182
Department Department of Sociology
Degree Doctor of Philosophy
University University of Central Florida
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Nicole Lynne Owens (2018), "The Interspecies Family: Attitudes and Narratives,"

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  1. Animal roles
  2. Family
  3. Gender
  4. Human-animal relationships
  5. open access
  6. Pets and companion animals
  7. Societies
  1. open access