The pandemic associated with the emergence of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is an unprecedented historical event with the potential to significantly impact adolescent loneliness. This study aimed to explore the role of companion animals and attachment to pets in the context of the pandemic. We used longitudinal quantitative survey data collected prior to and during the pandemic to assess the role of pets in predicting adolescent loneliness. Pet ownership was not a significant predictor of loneliness before the pandemic, but did predict higher levels of loneliness during COVID-19 as well as higher increases in loneliness from before to during the pandemic. Dog ownership predicted lower levels of loneliness prior to, but not during the pandemic, and dog owners were significantly more attached to their pets than non-dog pet owners. Adolescents with pets reported spending more time with their pets during the pandemic, and frequently reported pet interactions as a strategy for coping with stress. Overall, the results from this study did not support the presence of a buffering effect of companion animals on loneliness for adolescents and indicate complexity in the relationships between pet ownership, attachment, loneliness, and coping with stress. These results suggest a need for additional research further assessing how features of the relationship such as species and relationship quality might contribute to adolescent mental health outcomes.
|Publication Title||Animals (Basel)|
|Author Address||Department of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536, USA.Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155, USA.Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA 02481, USA.Lynch Research Associates, Natick, MA 01760, USA.|
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