Family Pets May Help Children In Military Families Form Positive Developmental Traits


New research has suggested that strong attachments to animals may help children in military families develop resiliency and other positive developmental traits.

“We were interested in seeing if the specific stressors faced by military-connected families could be mitigated by interacting with animals,” Megan Mueller, a developmental psychologist and research assistant professor at Tufts University, said. “We found that kids with deployed parents who had developed a deep bond with a family pet reported having better coping strategies in dealing with stress than those with such ties.”

The data was aggregated from an online survey that measured human-animal interaction, positive youth development, stress and adaptive coping strategies from 300 children in grades 6 to 12. Around 70 percent of the youths surveyed had family pets, and most were responsible for looking after them. Those who scored higher in competence, confidence, connection, character and caring all had greater attachment to companion animals than those who scored lower.

Though human-animal interaction didn’t correlate with coping skills for children who had at least one family member deployed, the difference was significant for youth who were dealing with a deployed family member.

Researchers noted that though the study can’t claim causality, it’s a step toward understanding emotional attachment and the development of positive coping strategies in children. They added that the results may point to a cost-effective way to help military families thrive under challenging times.

“Through this work, we recognize the importance of establishing connections that help kids develop a sense of responsibility and outward focus,” Sandy Franklin of the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) said.
The study was published in Applied Developmental Science. The online survey was conducted with the help of the MCEC and funded by Zoetis.

Source: Horse Talk


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