Children have a natural affinity for animals and most often communicate with them nonverbally; nonverbal communication is authentic and difficult to influence deliberately. This study examines whether characteristic interaction patterns exist during pet-facilitated therapy with dogs, and whether these can be used for diagnosing psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents. Forty children and adolescents with anorexia, bulimia, anxiety disorder or autism (classified according to the International Classification of Diseases - ICD 10) were monitored while in the same room as a therapy dog; their behaviour during a 25-minute encounter was video-recorded and analysed. The patients demonstrated significant diagnosis-specific behavioral differences; the greatest differences were found when the autistic patients were compared with the anxiety and eating disorder patients. The autistic children's behaviour was characterized by many brief interaction phases, whereas anxiety disorder patients interacted less often, with longer lasting episodes. While autistic children showed greater fear of the dog, anxiety disorder patients were more afraid of inter-human contact. A discriminant analysis assigned 77.5% of the patients to the correct diagnostic group. Child-dog interaction analysis call provide a valuable contribution to the psycho-diagnosis of children and adolescents.
|Author Address||Clinic of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, University of Leipzig, Wundtstrasse 9, 04275 Leipzig, Germany.Anke.Prothmann@medizin.uni-leipzig.de|
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