Pets are girls’ best friend, not siblings

Washington: A new study finds that teenagers, especially girls, get more satisfaction from relationships with their pets than their brothers or sisters.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK indicate that household pets may have a major influence on child development and can have a positive impact on the social skills and emotional well-being of the children.

The findings, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, indicate that boys and girls were equally satisfied with their pets, but girls reported more disclosure, companionship and conflict with their pets as compared to boys, perhaps indicating that girls may interact with their pets in more nuanced ways.

”Anyone who has loved a childhood pet knows that we turn to them for companionship and disclosure, just like relationships between people,” said lead study author Matt Cassells.

“We wanted to know how strong these relationships are with pets relative to other close family ties. Ultimately this may enable us to understand how animals contribute to healthy child development,” Cassells added.

The researchers surveyed 12- year-old children from 77 families with one or more pets of any type and more than one child at home.

The children reported strong relationships with their pets relative to their siblings, with lower levels of conflict and greater satisfaction in owners of dogs than other kinds of pets.

“Even though pets may not fully understand or respond verbally, the level of disclosure to pets was no less than to siblings,” Cassels stated.

“The fact that pets cannot understand or talk back may even be a benefit as it means they are completely non-judgmental,” Cassells explained.

Evidence continues to grow showing that pets have positive benefits on human health and community cohesion.

The social support that adolescents receive from pets may well support psychological well-being later in life but there is still more to learn about the long-term impact of pets on children’s development. (ANI)