Research Shows That Kids Are Closer To Pets Than Siblings

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They were with you throughout your childhood, sat near you during dinner, shared your bedroom, were great listeners, always kept your secrets and helped shape who you are today. Think we’re talking about your big brother or sister? Think again, we’re talking about your childhood pet.

Researching his MPhil in Social and Development Psychology at Cambridge University, Matt Cassels has uncovered some interesting truths about our relationships with the animals we were raised with including the fact that kids are more inclined to turn to their pets for support when faced with adversity, than to their siblings.

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Working with data from the “Toddlers Up Project” led by Professor Claire Hughes at the Centre for Family Research, the decade-long study of children’s social and emotional development included a section on how kids relate to their pets.

Although this type of research has been around for a while, few studies have compared the kid-pet connection to other relationships in their lives or how it ultimately influences their social development.

Related: Science Says Your Dog Loves You… Lots

Data was collected from 88 families over a 10-year period. The children, their parents, siblings, and teachers all provided information on pro-social behaviour, emotional wellbeing, academic ability, and junior’s relationship with their pet.

As you’d expect, the stronger the bond the happier the kid, but that’s not where it ends. Cassels also discovered that children who had suffered adversity in their lives, such as a bereavement, divorce, instability and illness or were from disadvantaged backgrounds, were more likely to have a stronger relationship with their pets than with their peers. These kids also had a higher level of pro-social behaviour – such as helping, sharing, and co-operating.

As Cassels so aptly states, “In the US and England pets are more common in families with young children than resident fathers and yet we don’t quantify how important they are to us.” Now kids have the numbers they need to kick their annoying brothers or sisters out of their shared bedroom, and invite the family dog to take up residence in the vacant bed!

[Source: Science Daily]