Human-Animal Interaction in Risk and Resilience in Childhood, Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood

A special issue of Behavioral Sciences (ISSN 2076-328X). This special issue belongs to the section "Social Psychology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (28 February 2022) | Viewed by 26017

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
1. Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development, Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23284, USA
2. Children, Families, and Animal Research Group (CFAR Group), Richmond, VA 23223-5229, USA
Interests: human-animal interaction; animal welfare; childhood adversity; mental health disparities; child and youth development; social determinants of health; one health; one welfare

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Assistant Guest Editor
School of Education and Social Sciences, University of West Scotland, Blantyre, Glasgow G72 0LH, UK
Interests: human-animal interactions; animal cruelty; attachment to pets; pets; mental health

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Assistant Guest Editor
School of Social Work, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
Interests: human-animal interaction; mental health; dogs; animal-assisted intervention; psychophysiological health

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Assistant Guest Editor
Clinical and Health Psychology, University of Edinburgh, Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh EH8 9AG, UK
Interests: child and adolescent health and mental health; children’s understandings of mind, body and mental health; developmental disabilities; children’s and adolescents’ interactions with animals
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Special Issue Information

Dear colleagues,

Youths’ relationships with companion animals may confer both protective effects and pose risks to their health and wellbeing, and animal welfare. Although there is increasing evidence of associations between positive human-animal interactions (HAI) and behavioral, psychosocial, and cognitive functioning, there is limited research examining the developmental mechanisms through which HAI contributes to risk and resilience during childhood through the transition to emerging adulthood. There is also a significant need for research that examines connections between HAI and social and health inequities that face contemporary youth. This special issue will bring together diverse scholars to advance research on the role of short-term (e.g., animal-assisted interventions) and long-term (e.g., pet ownership) HAI in risk and resilience during the developmental periods of childhood, adolescence, and/or emerging adulthood. We encourage submissions that report on diverse samples, underrepresented groups, and test for possible differences in HAI across population groups. We welcome empirical contributions related to the aforementioned topics (including systematic reviews and qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods studies) and from various disciplines (i.e., psychology, social work, public health, and sociology).

Dr. Shelby Elaine McDonald
Dr. Roxanne Hawkins
Dr. Kerri Rodriguez
Prof. Joanne Williams
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • Companion animals
  • pets
  • human-animal interaction
  • risk
  • resilience
  • health
  • child development
  • wellbeing
  • mental health
  • socioemotional adjustment

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

20 pages, 290 KiB  
Article
From Regulating Emotions to Less Lonely Screen Time: Parents’ Qualitative Perspectives of the Benefits and Challenges of Adolescent Pet Companionship
by Linda Charmaraman, Stephanie Cobas, Jules Weed, Quan Gu, Elizabeth Kiel, Holly Chin, Alyssa Gramajo and Megan K. Mueller
Behav. Sci. 2022, 12(5), 143; https://doi.org/10.3390/bs12050143 - 13 May 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 5590
Abstract
Adolescence is a prime developmental period to explore human–pet relationships, particularly given that teens are often relying less on their families, and more on other attachment figures such as peers and pets. However, most research on pet companionship is conducted with adults and [...] Read more.
Adolescence is a prime developmental period to explore human–pet relationships, particularly given that teens are often relying less on their families, and more on other attachment figures such as peers and pets. However, most research on pet companionship is conducted with adults and young children. Moreover, lived experiences around having pets in households with adolescents are underexplored, particularly from parents’ perspectives. This qualitative interview study of 31 parents/guardians in the Northeast U.S. explored perceptions of the benefits and challenges of having pets for their adolescent’s well-being as well as how adolescents affected their pet’s well-being. Our three main themes for perceived benefits of pets included social (e.g., reducing anxiety), physical (e.g., screen time companionship), and emotional (e.g., regulation of difficult emotions such as anger, loneliness). Challenges to adolescent well-being included such social topics as family tension around unevenly shared responsibilities, physical themes such as problematic animal behaviors, and emotional themes related to grieving the passing of pets. We offer a developmental systems approach to understanding pets within adolescent families, noting future directions for developing family interventions to improve pet–adolescent interactions given the demands of child and pet upbringing during adolescence. Full article
18 pages, 1714 KiB  
Article
Child–Dog Attachment, Emotion Regulation and Psychopathology: The Mediating Role of Positive and Negative Behaviours
by Roxanne D. Hawkins, Charlotte Robinson and Zara P. Brodie
Behav. Sci. 2022, 12(4), 109; https://doi.org/10.3390/bs12040109 - 15 Apr 2022
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 5762
Abstract
Emerging evidence suggests that pet dogs can offer features of a secure attachment which has been associated with healthy psychological development across the lifespan. Limited research has investigated the underpinning mechanisms that may contribute to the benefits and risks of child–dog attachment during [...] Read more.
Emerging evidence suggests that pet dogs can offer features of a secure attachment which has been associated with healthy psychological development across the lifespan. Limited research has investigated the underpinning mechanisms that may contribute to the benefits and risks of child–dog attachment during childhood. This study aimed to test the potential mediating role of caregiver-observed positive and negative child–dog behaviours, on the relationship between child-reported child–dog attachment, and caregiver-reported child psychopathology and emotion regulation. Data from 117 caregiver reports and 77 child self-reports were collected through an online survey in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Parallel mediation analyses indicated that child–dog attachment had a significant indirect effect on conduct problems through negative child–dog behaviours only. Child–dog attachment had a significant indirect effect on emotional symptoms, peer problems, prosocial behaviour, emotion regulation, and emotional lability/negativity through both positive and negative child–dog behaviours. Although this study found modest effect sizes, the findings suggest that the types of interactions that children engage in with their pet dogs may be important mechanisms through which pet attachment contributes to psychological development throughout childhood, and therefore further attention is warranted. Positive and safe child–dog interactions can be facilitated through education and intervention, which may have implications for promoting positive developmental outcomes. Full article
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12 pages, 515 KiB  
Article
Relationships among Early Adversity, Positive Human and Animal Interactions, and Mental Health in Young Adults
by Kerri E. Rodriguez, Shelby E. McDonald and Samantha M. Brown
Behav. Sci. 2021, 11(12), 178; https://doi.org/10.3390/bs11120178 - 14 Dec 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 3564
Abstract
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with poor mental health. Emerging research demonstrates the protective role of positive childhood experiences, including a positive sense of self and relationships with both humans and animals, in mitigating the impacts of early life adversity on mental [...] Read more.
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with poor mental health. Emerging research demonstrates the protective role of positive childhood experiences, including a positive sense of self and relationships with both humans and animals, in mitigating the impacts of early life adversity on mental health outcomes. This study examined whether benevolent childhood experiences (BCEs) or relationships and interactions with pets during childhood moderated the link between ACEs and current mental health symptoms in a sample of young adults. Students (N = 214) recruited from a public university in the U.S. completed an online survey. The results showed that ACEs were significantly associated with worse mental health symptoms, including anxiety and depression. Neither emotional closeness to a childhood pet dog nor positive interactions with a childhood pet were significant moderators of the relationship between ACEs and mental health. In contrast, more BCEs were associated with better mental health, and their interaction with ACEs was significant such that adversity-exposed young adults with high BCEs reported fewer mental health symptoms than those with low BCEs. The results highlight the need for continued research on differential experiences that may be protective in the relationship between adversity exposures and mental health. Full article
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17 pages, 1148 KiB  
Article
The Moderating Effect of Comfort from Companion Animals and Social Support on the Relationship between Microaggressions and Mental Health in LGBTQ+ Emerging Adults
by Angela Matijczak, Shelby E. McDonald, Camie A. Tomlinson, Jennifer L. Murphy and Kelly O’Connor
Behav. Sci. 2021, 11(1), 1; https://doi.org/10.3390/bs11010001 - 23 Dec 2020
Cited by 17 | Viewed by 5998
Abstract
LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other sexual/gender minority identities) individuals frequently report exposure to microaggressions, which are associated with deleterious mental health outcomes. Social support from humans has been found to be an important protective factor for LGBTQ+ emerging adults. However, [...] Read more.
LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other sexual/gender minority identities) individuals frequently report exposure to microaggressions, which are associated with deleterious mental health outcomes. Social support from humans has been found to be an important protective factor for LGBTQ+ emerging adults. However, an underexplored area of research is the protective role of interactions with companion animals for this population. We conducted simple and multiple moderation analyses to explore whether and to what extent emotional comfort from companion animals and human social support moderated the relationship between LGBTQ-related microaggressions and depressive and anxiety symptoms. Our sample included 134 LGBTQ+ emerging adults (mean age of 19.31). We found that social support moderated the relationship between microaggressions and depressive symptoms. The relationship between microaggressions and depressive symptoms was not significant at high levels of social support, indicating the protective nature of human social support. Comfort from companion animals also moderated the relationship between interpersonal microaggressions and depressive symptoms. For participants with high or medium levels of emotional comfort from companion animals, interpersonal microaggressions were positively associated with depressive symptoms. Our results highlight the need to further investigate the complex role of relationships with companion animals on mental health outcomes for LGBTQ+ emerging adults. Full article
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14 pages, 1033 KiB  
Article
The Impacts of the Presence of an Unfamiliar Dog on Emerging Adults’ Physiological and Behavioral Responses Following Social Exclusion
by Ilona Papousek, Katharina Reiter-Scheidl, Helmut K. Lackner, Elisabeth M. Weiss, Corinna M. Perchtold-Stefan and Nilüfer Aydin
Behav. Sci. 2020, 10(12), 191; https://doi.org/10.3390/bs10120191 - 14 Dec 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3566
Abstract
Research indicates that non-human attachment figures may mitigate the negative consequences of social exclusion. In the current experiment, we examined how the presence of an unfamiliar companion dog in the laboratory effects physiological and behavioral reactions in female emerging adults after social exclusion [...] Read more.
Research indicates that non-human attachment figures may mitigate the negative consequences of social exclusion. In the current experiment, we examined how the presence of an unfamiliar companion dog in the laboratory effects physiological and behavioral reactions in female emerging adults after social exclusion compared to inclusion. Results revealed the beneficial effects of the dog: Socially excluded participants in the company of a dog showed less aggressive behavior in response to the hot sauce paradigm compared to excluded participants in the control condition. Furthermore, cardiac responses indicated mitigated perception of threat in a subsequent insult episode when a dog was present. The presence of a dog did not impact the most instantaneous, “reflexive” response to the social exclusion as revealed by characteristic cardiac changes. Together, the findings indicate that the presence of a companion dog takes effect in a later, reflective period following a social exclusion experience, which implicates relevant social elaboration and appraisal processes. Full article
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