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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(3), 234; doi:10.3390/ijerph14030234

Companion Animals and Child/Adolescent Development: A Systematic Review of the Evidence

1
Institute of Infection and Global Health, and Institute of Veterinary Science, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of Liverpool, Leahurst Campus, Neston, Cheshire CH64 7TE, UK
2
Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health, University at Buffalo, 270 Farber Hall, Buffalo, NY 14214, USA
3
School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, 39 Whatley Road, Bristol BS8 2PS, UK
4
School of Psychology, University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool, Lincoln, Lincolnshire LN6 7TS, UK
5
Department of Psychology, State University of New York, Fredonia, NY 14063, USA
6
WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, Waltham-on-the-Wolds, Melton Mowbray, Leics LE14 4RT, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Paul B. Tchounwou
Received: 23 November 2016 / Revised: 16 January 2017 / Accepted: 20 February 2017 / Published: 27 February 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Assisted Interventions and Activites for Health and Wellbeing)
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Abstract

Childhood and adolescence are important developmental phases which influence health and well-being across the life span. Social relationships are fundamental to child and adolescent development; yet studies have been limited to children’s relationships with other humans. This paper provides an evidence review for the potential associations between pet ownership and emotional; behavioural; cognitive; educational and social developmental outcomes. As the field is in the early stages; a broad set of inclusion criteria was applied. A systematic search of databases and grey literature sources found twenty-two studies meeting selection criteria. The review found evidence for an association between pet ownership and a wide range of emotional health benefits from childhood pet ownership; particularly for self-esteem and loneliness. The findings regarding childhood anxiety and depression were inconclusive. Studies also showed evidence of an association between pet ownership and educational and cognitive benefits; for example, in perspective-taking abilities and intellectual development. Evidence on behavioural development was unclear due to a lack of high quality research. Studies on pet ownership and social development provided evidence for an association with increased social competence; social networks; social interaction and social play behaviour. Overall, pet ownership and the significance of children’s bonds with companion animals have been underexplored; there is a shortage of high quality and longitudinal studies in all outcomes. Prospective studies that control for a wide range of confounders are required. View Full-Text
Keywords: pet ownership; human-animal interaction; review; child development; adolescent development pet ownership; human-animal interaction; review; child development; adolescent development
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MDPI and ACS Style

Purewal, R.; Christley, R.; Kordas, K.; Joinson, C.; Meints, K.; Gee, N.; Westgarth, C. Companion Animals and Child/Adolescent Development: A Systematic Review of the Evidence. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14, 234.

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