Pets Can Provide More Companionship to Children than Siblings

There is a growing body of research that indicates a broad network of relationships is better for children, rather than a sole focus on parent-child interactions. Pets — our fellow animal companions — are included in that network of relationships.

Since other interactions are important, what about interactions with the nonhuman animal companion that is a member of the family?

This is essentially what new research has set out to find. A study published last year in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology addresses this almost uncharted territory of family life. The paper is called “One of the family? Measuring early adolescents’ relationships with pets and siblings“.

Animal companions are common in our modern day living, but their importance in our lives is often understated. Animal companions are nearly as common as siblings in Western societeis. 74% of families with a 10 year old in the UK also had an animal companion.

The study involved 77 12-year-olds where they tried to measure the relationship formed. They looked at several metrics because variations in pet relationships, such as the type of animal and it’s gender. Interactions with nonhuman animals plays a large influence on child development and has a positive impact on social skills and emotional well-being.

“Anyone who has loved a childhood pet knows that we turn to them for companionship and disclosure, just like relationships between people”

Many nonhuman animals have demonstrable cognitive, emotional and psychological lives, as I have talked about before many times, most recently with Louise the rooster who provides emotional help to at-risk children.

The study determined various strengths and relationships of humans compared to nonhumans.

Girls had more disclosure, companionship and conflict with their animal companions compared to boys.

Those who had dogs reported greater satisfaction and companionship than those who had other types of animals.

Comparing individual relationships with nonhuman animals to fellow siblings in the family, participants had more satisfaction and less conflict with nonhuman animals.

Matthew Cassels, lead of the study and a Gates Cambridge Scholar at the Department of Psychiatry, confirms the importance of human-nonhuman animal relationships:

“Even though pets may not fully understand or respond verbally, the level of disclosure to pets was no less than to siblings. The fact that pets cannot understand or talk back may even be a benefit as it means they are completely non-judgmental.”

The study concludes that there is legitimacy in understanding a human-nonhuman relationship in the same capacity as a human-human relationship.

Dr. Nancy Gee, a co-author of the research, adds:

“Evidence continues to grow showing that pets have positive benefits on human health and community cohesion.”

The full range of benefits and long-term impact on children’s development is not fully explored. There will likely be more research in the coming years to confirm what many people have long understood through living with nonhuman animals, and that is of the moral value of their own lives not belonging to us. Nonhuman animals are others, other beings, that think, feel and act — not exactly like us, but very similarly to us because they are our fellow kin from the animal kingdom with the capacity of consciousness.


Thank you for your time and attention! I appreciate the knowledge reaching more people. Take care. Peace.

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