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Child-Dog Attachment, Emotion Regulation and Psychopathology: The Mediating Role of Positive and Negative Behaviours

By R. D. Hawkins, C. Robinson, Z. P. Brodie

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Emerging evidence suggests that pet dogs can offer features of a secure attachment which has been associated with healthy psychological development across the lifespan. Limited research has investigated the underpinning mechanisms that may contribute to the benefits and risks of child–dog attachment during childhood. This study aimed to test the potential mediating role of caregiver-observed positive and negative child–dog behaviours, on the relationship between child-reported child–dog attachment, and caregiver-reported child psychopathology and emotion regulation. Data from 117 caregiver reports and 77 child self-reports were collected through an online survey in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Parallel mediation analyses indicated that child–dog attachment had a significant indirect effect on conduct problems through negative child–dog behaviours only. Child–dog attachment had a significant indirect effect on emotional symptoms, peer problems, prosocial behaviour, emotion regulation, and emotional lability/negativity through both positive and negative child–dog behaviours. Although this study found modest effect sizes, the findings suggest that the types of interactions that children engage in with their pet dogs may be important mechanisms through which pet attachment contributes to psychological development throughout childhood, and therefore further attention is warranted. Positive and safe child–dog interactions can be facilitated through education and intervention, which may have implications for promoting positive developmental outcomes.

Date 2022
Publication Title Behav Sci (Basel)
Volume 12
Issue 4
ISBN/ISSN 2076-328X (Print)2076-328x
DOI 10.3390/bs12040109
Author Address Division of Psychology, School of Education and Social Sciences, Paisley Campus, University of West of Scotland, Elles Building East, Paisley PA1 2BE, UK.School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK.
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Attachment
  2. Child development
  3. Companion
  4. Dogs
  5. Emotions
  6. Execution
  7. Human-animal interactions
  8. open access
  9. Pets and companion animals
  10. psychopathology
  1. open access