Many folks prefer dogs to humans. So if you’d rather confide in your dog than your sibling, you’re not alone. New research from the University of Cambridge suggests that children may be closer to their pets than their own brother or sister!
Matt Cassels was working on a 10-year longitudinal study of children’s development and looking for a topic for his Master of Philosophy degree when he settled on the relationship between children and their pets.
As Cassels said in the Science Daily article that profiled the study:
“The data on pet relationships stood out as it had never occurred to me to consider looking at pet relationships although I had studied children’s other relationships for some time and even though my own experience of pets while I was growing up was so important.”
His research showed that children who came from disadvantaged backgrounds, or who lived through difficult experiences, were more likely to confide in their pets and benefit from an interspecies friendship.
Interestingly, girls “argue” with their pets more than boys, who may have better relationships with their pets. That said, girls with dogs are more likely to be closer to their pets than their siblings.
The children and families involved in the study supplied the researcher with information about the children’s behavior, academic prowess, and lifestyle. Cassels compared the information with the amount of interaction and satisfaction gained from the children’s relationship with their animals. Cassels compiled data via a “pet attachment scale” adopted from a system used to measure human attachment. As he detailed further to Science Daily:
“I had to first prove that it was valid to talk about child pet relationships in the same way we talk about sibling relationships and that we were not indulging in anthropomorphism. My research found the tool was better than those that have previously been available so the possibilities for future research in this area are exciting.”
Cassels still has more work to do on the topic, so it’ll be interesting to see what other conclusions he draws. Meanwhile, we can take this scientific research as an excuse to blow off our siblings to hang out with our dogs!