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From Regulating Emotions to Less Lonely Screen Time: Parents' Qualitative Perspectives of the Benefits and Challenges of Adolescent Pet Companionship

By L. Charmaraman, S. Cobas, J. Weed, Q. Gu, E. Kiel, H. Chin, A. Gramajo, M. K. Mueller

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Abstract

Adolescence is a prime developmental period to explore human-pet relationships, particularly given that teens are often relying less on their families, and more on other attachment figures such as peers and pets. However, most research on pet companionship is conducted with adults and young children. Moreover, lived experiences around having pets in households with adolescents are underexplored, particularly from parents' perspectives. This qualitative interview study of 31 parents/guardians in the Northeast U.S. explored perceptions of the benefits and challenges of having pets for their adolescent's well-being as well as how adolescents affected their pet's well-being. Our three main themes for perceived benefits of pets included social (e.g., reducing anxiety), physical (e.g., screen time companionship), and emotional (e.g., regulation of difficult emotions such as anger, loneliness). Challenges to adolescent well-being included such social topics as family tension around unevenly shared responsibilities, physical themes such as problematic animal behaviors, and emotional themes related to grieving the passing of pets. We offer a developmental systems approach to understanding pets within adolescent families, noting future directions for developing family interventions to improve pet-adolescent interactions given the demands of child and pet upbringing during adolescence.

Date 2022
Publication Title Behav Sci (Basel)
Volume 12
Issue 5
ISBN/ISSN 2076-328X (Print)2076-328x
Publisher MDPI
DOI 10.3390/bs12050143
Author Address Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA 02481, USA.Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536, USA.
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Adolescents
  2. Analysis
  3. Companion
  4. Human-animal interactions
  5. open access
  6. Pets and companion animals
  7. Qualitative Research
  8. Research
  9. Well-being
Badges
  1. open access