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Effects of having pets at home on children's attitudes toward popular and unpopular animals

By P. Prokop, S. D. Tunnicliffe

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Having pets at home provides various social, health, and educational benefits to children. The question of how keeping pets at home affects the attitudes of children toward wild animals still has not been answered, due to various methodological issues, such as ignorance of some attitude dimensions and/or questionnaires that include items focused on very different animals. We conducted three independent research surveys (using three independent samples) of Slovakian primary school children aged 10 to 15 years (n=1297). These surveys focused on the effects of keeping pets on the attitudes of children towards, and knowledge of, three unpopular animals in Slovakia. These animals were pests (potato beetle) (Study 1), predators (wolf) (Study 2), and those that pose a threat of disease to humans (mouse) (Study 3). Each survey also included a popular animal (ladybird beetle, rabbit, and squirrel, respectively), which served as a "control"; these were compared by pair-wise statistics. Results consistently showed that children had better knowledge of, but less favorable attitudes towards, unpopular animals compared with popular ones. Having pets at home was associated with more positive attitudes to, and better knowledge of, both popular and unpopular animals. Girls were less favorably inclined than boys to animals that may pose a threat, danger, or disease to them. Implications for humane education are discussed, especially in terms of keeping pets, the link between knowledge and attitudes, and children's understanding of ecological adaptations.

Date 2010
Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 23
Issue 1
Pages 21-35
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
Language English
Author Address Department of Biology, Faculty of Education, Trnava University, Priemyselna 4, PO Box 9, 918 43 Trnava, Slovakia.pavol.prokop@savba@sk
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal ecology
  2. Anthrozoology
  3. Arthropods
  4. Attitudes
  5. Biological control
  6. Boy
  7. Children
  8. Developed countries
  9. Education
  10. Europe
  11. Girls
  12. Health
  13. Insects
  14. Invertebrates
  15. Mammals
  16. Mathematics and statistics
  17. peer-reviewed
  18. Pets and companion animals
  19. predators
  20. Primates
  21. Questionnaires
  22. rabbits
  23. Schools
  24. Social psychology and social anthropology
  25. surveys
  26. Wild animals
  1. peer-reviewed