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The relationship between childhood cruelty to animals and psychological adjustment: a Malaysian study

By D. Mellor, J. Yeow, Mamat Norul Hidayah bt, Hapidzal Noor Fizlee bt Mohd

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In Western research, cruelty to animals in childhood has been associated with comorbid conduct problems and with interpersonal violence in later life. However, there is little understanding of the aetiology of cruelty to animals, and what in the child's life may require attention if the chain linking animal cruelty and later violence is to be broken. The study reported in this paper investigated the association between parent-reported cruelty to animals, and parent- and self-reported psychological strengths and weaknesses in a sample of 379 elementary school children in an Eastern context, Malaysia. No gender differences were found in relation to cruelty to animals or psychological problems, as assessed with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). However, there were different predictors of cruelty to animals for boys and girls. Regression analyses found that for boys, parent-reported hyperactivity was a unique predictor of Malicious and Total Cruelty to animals. For girls, self-reported conduct problems was a unique predictor of Typical Cruelty to animals. Parent-reported total difficulties were associated with Typical, Malicious, and Total Cruelty to animals. We suggest that routine screening of children with an instrument such as the SDQ may help to detect those children who may need to undergo further assessment and perhaps intervention to break the chain linking childhood cruelty to animals and later conduct problems.

Date 2008
Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 21
Issue 4
Pages 363-374
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
Language English
Author Address School of Psychology, Deakin University, Burwood Campus, Burwood, Victoria 3125,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Aggression
  2. Animal behavior
  3. ASEAN Countries
  4. Asia
  5. Boy
  6. Causality
  7. Children
  8. Commonwealth of Nations
  9. Developed countries
  10. Etiology
  11. Girls
  12. Interventions
  13. Malaysia
  14. Mammals
  15. peer-reviewed
  16. predictions
  17. predictors
  18. Primates
  19. Questionnaires
  20. Schools
  21. screening
  22. Threshold Countries
  1. peer-reviewed