As a parent, you will be accustomed to listening to your children ask, perhaps even beg for things that take their fancy such as the latest toy, trainers, or naughty sweet treat they are rarely allowed. Amongst this list, cries of ‘can we have a dog/cat/hamster/rabbit’ can feature very prominently for many parents, especially if your child has recently come home from visiting an animal-friendly pal. However, although it is a big commitment to get a pet, recent studies have shown that it might be time to think seriously re-think your stance about adopting a furry friend.
Pet food manufacturer, Mars Petcare and Cambridge University conducted research into the special relationship between children and pets, also comparing this to companionship between siblings. Children aged 12 from 77 families which had either one or more pets at home, or one or more children at home were questioned. Surprisingly, the research found that children felt their relationships with their pets were closer and sparked less conflict than between siblings.
As well as providing a heart-warming account into the fond friendship that can form between children and their animal companions, this news has sparked debate once more, adding to the evidence that shows the benefits that having pets can bring to the emotional and social development of children.
With a pet in the home, children can turn to them for disclosure, offering a ‘shoulder to cry on’. And although they cannot talk back, this could even have further benefits, helping kids to open up without the fear of judgement.
A researcher at the centre and co-author of the study, Nancy Gee, commented more about the positive effect that having a family pet could have on young children: “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.”
Although, as Nancy suggests, we are still waiting to learn more about the long-term benefits, the unrivalled relationship between children and their fluffy friends cannot be argued and adopting a pet could give your kids and you, the parent, a faithful friend to add warmth and companionship around the home.
Do you have pets? What effect does it have on children? Do you think that having pets could actually be detrimental to a child’s development? Let us know via social media, in the comments below or in our online parent’s forum!