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Particularly in early and pre-adolescence, developmental changes in self-esteem have a significant impact and fluctuate prominently, with large decreases in self-esteem during transition to adolescence [ 24 ]. It has been suggested that if companion animals provide support for self-esteem, their greatest influence will be on youths as they approach adolescence coinciding with increasing experiences of uncertainty and at this time they may have a higher need for the emotional support they derive from companion animals [ 25 ].

Also, during this period cognitive changes in thinking about the self and others, as well as relationships with significant others, such as parents and peers and perhaps pets , are most common and can indirectly affect self-esteem [ 25 ].

Woath it? Coase Ah Am, Pet

If companion animals provide social support [ 15 ] and act as catalysts for human social interactions [ 26 ], they may reduce loneliness and increase self-esteem. Companion animals have been found to rival and even surpass humans ability to provide important self-object needs, such as self-cohesion, self-esteem, calmness, soothing, and acceptance [ 27 ]. Increased self-esteem and self-worth may result in further benefits for individuals with anxiety, depression, behavioural problems and educational attainment. However, whether causality can be implied to a link between companion animals and child or adolescent self-psychology is yet unknown.

Companion animals may also influence cognitive development. It has been suggested that companion animal ownership may facilitate language acquisition and potentially enhance verbal skills in children [ 28 ]. In addition, although not empirically tested, the pet may also serve as a subject of conversations that stimulate vocabulary building, when caregivers and children talk about what the pet is doing.

Melson [ 9 ] stated that for many children, companion animals are likely to be powerful motivators for learning, perhaps due to children learning and retaining more about subjects they are more emotionally invested in, and due to learning being optimized when it occurs within meaningful relationships. The presence of animals has been shown to elicit immediate positive effects in testing situations of cognition such as memory, categorization and attention [ 29 , 30 , 31 , 32 , 33 , 34 ] and studies on language, literacy, and reading ability have also shown a similar positive influence of animal presence [ 35 , 36 , 37 ].

It has been speculated that animal interaction may provide opportunities to improve cognitive Executive Functions EFs mental processes that form the basis for planning, attention, memory and self-control through stress reduction and social support which in turn can affect behaviour and improve academic outcomes [ 38 ]. However, the quality of the existing evidence has not yet been reviewed to infer any conclusions. Most research to date addressing the impact of pets on human health has focused on adults.

Woath It? Coase Ah Am, Pet

Less is known about the role pets play in the lives and wellbeing of children and youths, and if pet ownership may provide scaffolding in child development. As outlined above, there is theoretical potential for the role of pets in child and adolescent development, which suggests these relationships are worth exploring further. However, the existing evidence has not been systematically reviewed to identify particular strengths or gaps in knowledge, nor as to whether causality can be implied.

Due to study design and quality this is a complex task. Therefore the objective of this systematic review was to determine the evidence base for the impact of pet ownership and pet attachment on childhood and adolescent development. A broad range of outcomes were reviewed, including emotional, behavioural, cognitive, educational and social developmental. Recommendations for future research are provided to help advance the field of child development and HAI research.

Key terms used in searches included pet-related keywords pet, pet ownership, dog, cat, dog ownership, companion animal, and human animal interaction and were crossed with developmental-related keywords child development, adolescent development, psychological, behavioural, educational, cognitive, language and social development, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, loneliness, emotional health.

In addition, reference lists from relevant journal articles were scanned. It is still possible that evidence remains in unfound grey literature. The inclusion criteria for the collection of articles included: literature that investigated the effects of pet ownership on emotional, cognitive or behavioural development in children and adolescents without developmental disabilities infancy up to 18 years. Only articles written in English were included. With the aim of carrying out a broad review of the current relevant literature, restrictions for inclusion were limited; papers were not excluded based on study design and methodology.

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Initially, abstracts were reviewed for study selection by the primary author. The studies were then assessed by the primary author against the OCEBM Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine levels of evidence [ 39 ] to take into account the risk of bias and quality of evidence on which conclusions are based, although no study was excluded based on quality alone due to large gaps in current evidence and poor availability of good-quality studies within each outcome refer to Table 1 and Table 2 for details of classification. The initial literature searches returned results.

Grey literature searches found an additional 11 references totalling publications Figure 1. Forty-one publications remained after the examination of studies against the inclusion criteria. After removing duplicates and the studies not fitting the criteria, 22 studies remained for review. Among the selected studies, which commonly reported on more than one outcome, 19 reported on the effects of pet ownership on emotional health, five on behavioural development, three on cognitive development, four on educational outcomes, and four on social development.

Of the 22 studies, 13 reported cross-sectional data and only two reported longitudinal data on the impact of pets on youth development; a further one used mixed methods, and six qualitative studies were included. Specific details of the literature can be found in Table 2. The majority of the studies were observational cross-sectional questionnaire surveys, or qualitative interviews, therefore were not further evaluated on their methodological quality as they are already considered low or very low levels of evidence according to OCEBM Refer to Figure 2 for a graphical representation of study design and risk of bias.

Meta-analysis was not appropriate due methodological differences and the number of different outcomes reported. Harvest plot showing evidence for the impact pets have on categories of child and adolescent development. The table consists of eight rows one for each dimension of development and three columns showing the differential effects of the evidence in each category.

Each study is represented by a bar in each row; studies can be identified by reference number.

Statistically significant effects use of p -values are indicated with solid blue bars, and studies with no confidence intervals and p -values reported are striped bars. Each bar is annotated with marking to show risk of bias. A wide range of emotional health benefits from childhood pet ownership were identified. Two studies measured anxiety as an outcome in youth pet ownership. In contrast, in a Croatian study of 10—year-old children, pet owners dog and cat had no difference in validated social anxiety measures compared to non-pet owners [ 42 ].

In sum, these studies illustrate some potential of pet dogs to prevent child and adolescent anxiety, specifically separation and social anxiety disorders, but the small number of studies and mixed results warrant further research. Whether pets can reduce more general child anxiety is unknown. There is again a marked lack of research focusing on the effects of pet ownership on depressive symptoms in children and adolescents. In one study, pet owning homeless adolescents utilizing two Los Angeles drop-in centres reported fewer symptoms and lower average scores of self-reported depression measured by the item Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale CES-D average score of 7.

However, data from an Australian school-based population study show pet-owning youths of similar ages 13—19 years did not have better self-reported emotional health or well-being, suggesting findings may be different in non-homeless youths [ 43 ]. The potential protective effects of pets may also differ by age group. However, the impact of dog ownership on depressive symptoms in younger children measured by the Pediatric Symptom Checklist 17 internalizing symptoms subscale showed no significant effects, and in addition no difference was found between dog-owning and non-dog-owning children in their histories of diagnosed mental health problems [ 41 ].

Therefore it could be speculated that the relationship with the animal may be of more importance in conferring psychological benefits than pet ownership alone. Nine studies investigated the impact of pets on the self-esteem and self-concept among youths. In the same study, the type of pet owned had no effect either on validated self-esteem measures. However, in the same study, children aged 8—10 did not differ in terms of self-esteem compared to non-pet owners, suggesting that pets exert their greatest influence during pre-adolescence and adolescence [ 25 ].

Other studies also indicate that pet ownership alone is sufficient to have a positive effect on self-esteem or self-concept, independent of pet attachment. Among 8—year-olds, qualitative research supports the finding companion animals increase child and adolescents self-esteem and self-enhancing affection—the perception that the child-pet relationship imparts a sense of self-importance and makes them feel good about themselves [ 16 ].

Further qualitative data supports this. In a study of 7—8-year-old children examining representations of social support from companion animals using a story-based methodology, relationships with pets were ranked higher than human relationships by children as providers of both self-esteem and support [ 15 ]. Furthermore qualitative study of early adolescents 10—14 years found pet owners to have higher self-esteem than non-pet-owning peers amongst other pet-owning benefits such as friendship and stress reduction [ 14 ].

Importantly, a long term effect may be present; the self-concept of undergraduate students 14—49 years was related to the age they were when they had their first pet [ 49 ]. The psycho-social wellbeing of youths due to goat ownership has been examined in Western Kenyan culture. A qualitative study using thematic analysis found that after orphaned 12—year-old children were given goats to care for, the development of pride, self-concept and self-worth was much improved due to goat ownership [ 50 ].

Owning goats, which are typically kept as property rather than pets, enabled children to create positive images of the self and of life, increased resilience and coping skills and increased social participation within the community.

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However, it must be recognised that goat ownership in this case may imply an increase in wealth therefore child welfare may not have been directly affected by interaction with the animals, but instead by an escape from poverty. Loneliness is likely a precursor for anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.

There is some evidence that pet ownership may protect youths from loneliness and social isolation, and therefore may help to prevent depression. Pet-owning homeless youths aged 15—23 years reported fewer symptoms of both loneliness quantitatively UCLA Loneliness Scale score of 1. The protective impact of pet ownership on loneliness has also been observed in less vulnerable populations. For example, high school students 13—19 years who owned a pet reported significantly lower scores of loneliness mean score of In addition, loneliness scores were not affected by length of relationship with the pet or the number of pets owned.

However, another study using validated measures of socio-emotional development of children aged 10—15 years found that pet owners were no more or less lonely than non-pet owners, although they did show a high degree of emotional closeness to their pets [ 42 ]. The impact of pet ownership on loneliness in younger children has not been investigated. There is mixed evidence on whether pet ownership affects behavioural outcomes in children or adolescents as shown in Figure 2. Amongst U.