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Article

Companion Animal Relationships and Adolescent Loneliness during COVID-19

1
Department of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536, USA
2
Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155, USA
3
Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA 02481, USA
4
Lynch Research Associates, Natick, MA 01760, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Mark J. Farnworth
Animals 2021, 11(3), 885; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030885
Received: 11 February 2021 / Revised: 13 March 2021 / Accepted: 16 March 2021 / Published: 19 March 2021
This study assessed the relationship between pet ownership, pet attachment, loneliness, and coping with stress before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Contrary to our hypotheses, results did not support the presence of a buffering effect of pet ownership on loneliness, with pet ownership predicting increases in loneliness from pre-pandemic to during the pandemic. Dog owners showed lower levels of loneliness prior to the pandemic as well as higher levels of attachment, suggesting possible species-level differences in these relationships. Pet owners also reported spending time with their pet as a highly used strategy for coping with stress, suggesting that future research should explore the role of pets in coping with stress and social isolation during the pandemic. These results indicate that the relationship between pet ownership and adolescent loneliness during the pandemic is complex and warrants further research.
The pandemic associated with the emergence of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is an unprecedented historical event with the potential to significantly impact adolescent loneliness. This study aimed to explore the role of companion animals and attachment to pets in the context of the pandemic. We used longitudinal quantitative survey data collected prior to and during the pandemic to assess the role of pets in predicting adolescent loneliness. Pet ownership was not a significant predictor of loneliness before the pandemic, but did predict higher levels of loneliness during COVID-19 as well as higher increases in loneliness from before to during the pandemic. Dog ownership predicted lower levels of loneliness prior to, but not during the pandemic, and dog owners were significantly more attached to their pets than non-dog pet owners. Adolescents with pets reported spending more time with their pets during the pandemic, and frequently reported pet interactions as a strategy for coping with stress. Overall, the results from this study did not support the presence of a buffering effect of companion animals on loneliness for adolescents and indicate complexity in the relationships between pet ownership, attachment, loneliness, and coping with stress. These results suggest a need for additional research further assessing how features of the relationship such as species and relationship quality might contribute to adolescent mental health outcomes. View Full-Text
Keywords: human-animal interaction; pet ownership; loneliness; adolescence; COVID-19 human-animal interaction; pet ownership; loneliness; adolescence; COVID-19
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MDPI and ACS Style

Mueller, M.K.; Richer, A.M.; Callina, K.S.; Charmaraman, L. Companion Animal Relationships and Adolescent Loneliness during COVID-19. Animals 2021, 11, 885. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030885

AMA Style

Mueller MK, Richer AM, Callina KS, Charmaraman L. Companion Animal Relationships and Adolescent Loneliness during COVID-19. Animals. 2021; 11(3):885. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030885

Chicago/Turabian Style

Mueller, Megan K., Amanda M. Richer, Kristina S. Callina, and Linda Charmaraman. 2021. "Companion Animal Relationships and Adolescent Loneliness during COVID-19" Animals 11, no. 3: 885. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030885

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