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Pets in the Family

By Jason Brown

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Recent cultural shifts have found more people identifying their pets as members of their family. However, little research has examined how families create this identity that pets have. Using narrative performance theory, this study examined the stories that families tell about their pets and how their pets fit into the family. Fifteen dog owning families were interviewed about their dog and how it interacts with and fits within the family. Results of the study indicate that there were two main behaviors that are important to the development of the identity of the pet as a family member. First, the family must self-identify the pet as a member of the family. Second, the stories the family tells involve interaction between the pet and the human family members. Additionally, for many of the participants it seemed that it was the idea of a pet as the family member that was commonly enacted, more so than the actual pet filling that role. The results offer insight into how these families create the identity their pet has within the family, as well as bring shape to exactly what that identity is. Future research should continue to explore the roles pets play in a family and examine if the space occupied by pets is a truly unique one within families.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2015
Pages 69
Department Communication
Degree M.A.
Language English
University Wayne State University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Family
  3. open access
  4. Pets and companion animals
  5. Pets as family members
  1. open access