People worldwide, due to their cultures and countries, keep a wide range of #pets home. However, dogs and cats are arguably among the most popular pets, with roughly 90 million being dogs and 94 million being cats living in the USA alone.
Humans often form strong attachments to their pets and in some cases, pet ownership in both adults and children is associated with greater physical and emotional well-being.
Many pet owners report feeling a very close attachment to their pets, and sometimes report greater levels of attachment to their pet than towards other human members of their family. Whereas, the grief that individuals report feeling at the loss of a dog has been equated to the loss of a child. The length of time period an individual owns a pet and the more pet experience the owner has are linked to higher attachment levels.
Pet ownerships in adults is related to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease as well as to lower systolic blood pressure. The presence of, or even thinking about, a pet dog has been found to result in the secure base effect and lower blood pressure levels during a difficult cognitive task designed to cause elevated stress.
Single children have self-reported having stronger attachments to their favourite family pet than children with siblings. Moreover, according to parents’ judgments of their children’s level of attachment, children being raised by a single parent were more strongly attached to their pet dog than children being raised in a two-parent family.
Whereas, in families with multiple children, the youngest child typically has the strongest attachment to their family pet. According to Child Pet Attachment Scale questionnaire, as children grow older their attachment to their pets decreases gradually. Therefore, children typically score higher than adults on measures of the strength of their attachment to dogs.
In cases of childhood neglect or abuse, the strength of pet attachment can be even stronger. Children who have experienced abuse, neglect, or traumatic loss, are four times more likely to report a secure attachment to a pet than children with a secure attachment to their human caregiver.
Studies have shown that interactions with animals can cause children’s blood pressure and heart rate to decrease and for those recovering from trauma the presence of animals may be especially beneficial for lowering their state of hyperarousal. For children who have a hard time trusting people, including members of their family, it may be much easier for them to readily trust a dog. For children experiencing conflict among family members, pets can provide companionship.
As a result child–pet relationships may be especially impactful for children who do not have stable or secure attachments to their human caretakers.
Source: Spotlight on the psychological basis of childhood pet attachment and its implications.
Wanser et al 2019