Why your pet can turn you into a more caring person: People with animals ‘more connected to communities and partners’
It is widely recognised that a pet can be your best friend and also do wonders for your health.
But it seems there is no end to their abilities because researchers say they can also make you a more caring person.
A US team found that young adults who had a strong attachment to pets reported feeling more connected to their communities and relationships.
Dr Megan Mueller, a developmental psychologist at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine near Boston, questioned more than 500 people aged 18 to 26 on their attitudes and interaction with animals.
Their answers were compared with responses they gave on questions that measure characteristics such as competence, caring, confidence, connection and character, as well as feelings of depression.
The study, published in the journal Applied Developmental Science, found that high levels of attachment to an animal were associated with feeling connected with other people, having empathy and feeling confident.
Dr Mueller said: ‘Our findings suggest that it may not be whether an animal is present in an individual’s life that is most significant but rather the quality of that relationship.
‘We can’t draw causal links with this study but it is a promising starting point to better understanding the role of animals in our lives, especially when we are young.’
Young adults who cared for animals reported engaging in more ‘contribution’ activities, such as providing service to their community, helping friends or family and demonstrating leadership, than those who did not.
The more actively they participated in the pet’s care, the higher the contribution scores.
The study, published in the journal Applied Developmental Science, also found that high levels of attachment to an animal in late adolescence and young adulthood were positively associated with feeling connected with other people, having empathy and feeling confident.
Dr Mueller said that to learn more about how and if interacting with animals is linked with positive youth development future studies need to look at specific features of human experiences with animal experiences, as well as how these relationships develop over time, and include a larger, more diverse sample.