First Advisor

Dalton Miller-Jones

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Applied Psychology






Pets -- Social aspects, Children and animals, Human-animal relationships -- Psychological aspects



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 137 p.) : ill. (some col.)


Although attention to the effects of child-animal interactions on children's development has increased in the last three decades, developmental psychology has not attended to the importance of the effects of animals on children's development. There is a need to consider the possible impacts of animals as significant social partners for children's socioemotional development. The current study, through survey questionnaires and interview methods, investigated whether interacting with animals, especially when children have responsibilities for the welfare of pets and perhaps have formed strong attachments with pets, will promote children's socio-emotional development, specifically their abilities to take the perspective of others. Sixty-five students who attended the local humane society's summer camp program, and students who participated in a monthly humane education program as part of their after school program were invited to participate in the study. All participants completed seven surveys and one telephone or face-to-face interview that were designed to measure their attitudes toward animals and humans, as well as their abilities to take the perspective of others. A linear regression analysis, Chi-Square test, and correlation coefficient test were conducted to assess the quality of interaction with pets on children's humane attitudes toward animals and humans, empathy, as well as their perspective taking abilities. It was found that students who showed stronger attachment toward their pets showed more humane attitudes toward animals and toward humans than students who showed weaker attachment toward their pets. Additionally, it was found that students who showed stronger attachment with their pets had higher levels of social cognitive development (i.e., perspective taking abilities) than students who showed weaker attachment with their pets. Also, significant correlations among variables, such as students' knowledge of animal care, attitudes toward animals and humans, attachment with pets, perspective taking abilities, were found. Lastly, students whose parents show more effective guidance on pet care have more advanced skills of thinking and solving problems in flexible manner than students who do not receive any or less guidance on pet care at home. Findings from the current study suggest the importance of humane education programs as well as effective parental guidance in pet care at home to promote students' knowledge of animal care and humane attitudes toward animals, which influence students' ability to take perspective of others. Promoting such knowledge and attitudes of children may help to promote their empathy and ability to take perspective of others. Having such abilities will alternately help children to have high interpersonal skills, which is a key to have a more successful life in society.


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Portland State University. Dept. of Psychology

Persistent Identifier