Do your kids love their pets more than this family member?
Ever wonder why your kids love their cats and dogs, but when it comes to their siblings, they fight like, well, cats and dogs?
Maybe it’s because children experience more satisfaction and less conflict in the relationships they have with their pets than with their brothers and sisters. At least that’s what researchers from the University of Cambridge found.
The findings might not speak well of brotherly and sisterly love, but it explains the importance animals can play in child development.
“The research adds to increasing evidence that people’s, and particularly children’s, relationships with their pets are among the strongest and most positive,” says Dr. Chandragupta Vedak, a psychiatrist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. “Pets are thus a valuable resource and may have positive influence on social adjustment and emotional well-being. This is particularly true for people with physical and emotional limitations. They perceive pets to be non-judgmental and capable of providing unconditional affection.”
For the study, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, researchers surveyed 12-year-old children from 77 families. Each of these families had at least one pet and more than one child. In general, children reported strong relationships with their pets with lower levels of conflict and greater satisfaction compared with their relationships with their brothers and sisters.
One of the researchers who led the study said perhaps the findings are related to the fact that pets are non-judgmental and can’t talk back. Additionally, there may be rivalry among siblings that doesn’t exist between pets and people.
“Siblings typically compete for attention from their parents and grandparents. That in itself puts them at higher risk for conflict with each other,” Dr. Vedak says. “Ability to communicate verbally further increases the risk perpetuating that conflict. That is not so with pets. Kids typically do not feel that they have to compete with pets for parental attention. Additionally, because pets are non-verbal, they make good listeners. Being non-verbal also makes pets less able to perpetuate a conflict.”
About the Author
Kathleen Troher, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Good Sheperd Hospital in Barrington. She has more than 20 years of journalism experience, with her primary focus in the newspaper and magazine industry. Kathleen graduated from Columbia College in Chicago, earning her degree in journalism with an emphasis on science writing and broadcasting. She loves to travel with her husband, Ross. They share their home with a sweet Samoyed named Maggie.