Children living in a family that owns a dog between two and five years of age have better ‘social and emotional well-being’ than non-pet homes
- The authors studied questionnaires from more than 1,640 families with children
- Children from families who own dogs are less likely to have emotional problems
- This trend has also shifted to social interactions and other characteristics of well-being
Children in a dog-owner family show signs of better social and emotional well-being than children from families who do not own a dog, research suggests.
A team of experts from the University of Western Australia studied questionnaires completed by more than 16.40 families, including children aged two to five.
After considering their parents’ age, biological sex, sleeping habits, viewing time and education levels, they examined the impact of a dog on young children.
Children in households who own dogs were 23% less likely to have difficulties with emotions and social interactions than children who did not own a dog.
A team of experts from the University of Western Australia studied questionnaires completed by more than 16.40 families, including children aged two to five. Stock Image
The authors analyzed the data collected between 2015 and 2018 as part of the Play Spaces and Environments for Physical Activity Children (PLAYCE) study.
Parents of children aged two to five years answered a questionnaire assessing their child’s physical activity and socio-emotional development.
Of the 1,646 households included in the study, 686 owned a dog.
Children from dog-owned families were 30% less likely to engage in antisocial behavior, the study authors found in the data set.
They also found that 40% were less likely to have problems interacting with other children and 34% more likely to engage in considerable behavior, such as sharing.
Associate professor Hayley Christian, the corresponding author, said it was interesting to see how much difference dog ownership made.
“While we hoped that dog ownership would bring some benefits to the well-being of young children, we were surprised that the mere presence of a family dog was associated with many positive behaviors and emotions,” she said.
Even among dog owners, there was a difference depending on how children were involved in pet care.
Those who joined the family to walk dogs at least once a week were 36% less likely to have poor social and emotional development than those who walked the family dog less than once a week.
Children who played with the family dog three or more times a week were 74% more likely to regularly engage in considerable behavior than those who played with the dog less than three times a week.
Children in households who own dogs were 23% less likely to have difficulties with emotions and social interactions than children who did not own a dog. Stock Image
Christian said his findings seem to suggest that dog ownership can benefit children’s development and well-being.
“We speculate that this can be attributed to the bond between children and their dogs”, explained the main author.
“The stronger bonds between children and their pets can be reflected in the amount of time spent playing and walking together, and this can promote social and emotional development.”
The authors caution that, due to the observational nature of the study, they were unable to determine the exact mechanism by which dog ownership can benefit young children’s social and emotional development or establish cause and effect.
They say that new research should assess the potential influence of owning different types of pets or the influence that children’s attachment to their pets can have on children’s development throughout life.
The research was published in the journal Pediatric Research.
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