Young Adults' Attachment to Pet Dogs: Findings from Open-Ended Methods

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Turning to someone in times of emotional distress (safe haven) is one key feature of an attachment bond. Aspects of pet dogs as sources of safe haven were examined with open-ended methods for two samples of young adults who were college students (total n = 566, mean age = 19.24 years). Based on ranked nominations, relative to other features of pet dogs as attachment figures, safe haven was the least salient. Nonetheless, although participants were less likely to turn to pet dogs than to mothers, friends, and romantic partners in times of distress, they were more likely to turn to pets than to fathers and brothers and just as likely to turn to sisters. Differences between pet dogs and some humans as sources of safe haven were smallest for participants with high levels of involvement in the care of their dogs and participants who regarded their dogs as strongly meeting needs for relatedness. It is concluded that characteristics of both the dog and the owner predispose young adults to regard their dogs as a source of safe haven and serve as one basis for establishing attachment bonds with them.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2009

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