An investigation of human–animal interactions and empathy as related to pet preference, ownership, attachment, and attitudes in children
Authors: Daly, Beth; Morton, L.L.
Source: Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 1 June 2006, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 113-127(15)
Abstract:A group of elementary students (n = 155) were surveyed with respect to four aspects of relationships with pets—preference, ownership, attachment, and attitude—in order to further explore the connection that appears to exist between human–animal interactions and empathy. The investigation was initiated, in part, in order to elaborate upon findings from an earlier study (Daly and Morton 2003) and focused mainly on the relationships between children and dogs and cats, although horses, birds, and fish were also included. Some of the general findings related to dogs and cats are: (1) children who preferred (Pet Preference Inventory) both dogs and cats were more empathic than those who preferred cats or dogs only; (2) those who owned both dogs and cats were more empathic than those who owned only a dog, owned only a cat, or who owned neither; (3) those who were highly attached to their pets (Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale) were more empathic than those who were less attached; and (4) empathy and positive attitude (Pet Attitude Scale) revealed a significant positive correlation. As expected, girls were significantly more empathic than boys. Moreover, while cell sizes were low with respect to pet preference and ownership, empathy was also higher for individuals who expressed a preference for birds and horses. While the earlier study (Daly and Morton 2003) indicated that higher empathy was associated with dog ownership more so than other pets, including cats, a notable finding of the present study is that empathy appears to be positively associated with individuals who prefer, and/or who own, both a dog and a cat. The implications extend to the need: (1) for continued empirical research investigating the relationship between human–animal interactions and empathy; and (2) to refine the questions that lead to a clearer explanation of this relationship.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: June 1, 2006