How Pets Affect Our Mental Health - Part Two

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How pets influence the social, emotional and cognitive development of children


A significant percentage of growth and development physiological, social, emotional, and cognitive happens during the childhood and adolescent phase. This could lay the foundation for learning coping skills and other adaptive behaviors which make life easier as children grow up. It is important to state here that the opportunities for children to socialize with their peers, to observe, ask questions, imitate, and learn have significantly reduced in today’s digital lifestyle. Children these days are caught up with their gadgets which often serve as nannies and entertainers. This seems to have changed the normal course of observation, exploration, discovery, and learning. In such a scenario it is important to note that pets provide more opportunities to establish and strengthen natural learning mechanisms. 


It is a known fact that children not only develop an attachment to their pets but also treat them as one of their family members. Attachment theorists believe that children who are attached to their caregivers not only build strong bonds but are also able to maintain close relationships with others. (Source 2). Even though these conclusions have been drawn from the studies which focus on human interaction, it is important not to overlook the human-animal bond and its effect on various developmental aspects in children. 


Some researchers found that children who had pets were ‘generally better off than children who did not have a pet’. Children raised in families with pets were reported by their parents to:



  • have better general health

  • be more obedient

  • be more physically active

  • be less moody

  • have fewer behavior problems

  • have fewer learning problems (source 1)




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How having pets help in the overall growth and development of children?


Perfect companions


Pets are the perfect companion for children. In today’s world, single children are more common than ever before and pets seem to be the right addition to such families to help these single children overcome the problem of loneliness. 


Separation anxiety


Separation anxiety is common among children whose parents leave them at home to go to work. The pet then becomes a source of security and stability for the child. 


Learning to handle responsibility


Children learn to be nurturing and responsible when they are entrusted with the task of taking care of their pets.


Calming force 


Playing with pets could calm them down and relieve them of any stress they may be facing. Playing toucjing and bonding with pets also helps children build stronger bonds with their peers and friends. source


Leadership qualities


Training and teaching their pets tricks could instill confidence and leadership qualities in children and these skills could come in handy in other areas of life. Children learn qualities such as perseverance, achieving their goals, and gaining rewards for jobs well done which are very important for life. 


Physical activity


Playing and walking pets provide children enough exercise outdoors. This keeps them physically and mentally active. This could also provide them opportunities to socialize and make friends outside their usual social circles.


Linguistic ability


Young children speak to pets as they normally speak to others, it could play an important part in helping younger children develop a larger vocabulary and social skills. It could also be a cathartic experience for children who have emotional problems.




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Disadvantages of Having pets


One of the commonly voiced negative effects of having pets is that children could be allergic to pets. It is also vital to state here that optimal attention needs to be given while choosing pets, the child’s health in mind is of utmost importance. 


Bites from pets could also be a negative effect. However, it is important to train your pets well especially if you have children. 


The death of a pet could be seen both as an advantage and a disadvantage. Children learn to accept death as a natural progression of life. However, the death of a pet could cause serious emotional turmoil in young children. Parents need to be prepared to handle such possible events.


Conclusion


One important aspect we need to keep in mind while talking about the impact of pets on wholesome development in children is that just having pets at home alone will not do the trick. The level of attachment and interaction these children have with their pets is what brings about the positive results mentioned here. [source 1]


The benefits of having pets are not restricted to having dogs or cats alone, attachment and interaction with other pets such as guinea pigs, rabbits, horses, tortoises could bring about the same benefits. However, these have not been studied in depth. 


While there are both advantages and disadvantages in having pets from the literature reviewed thus far it would seem the benefits far outweigh the liabilities. 


Although there is enough direct and indirect evidence to suggest that owning pets are beneficial to children in their emotional, cognitive and social development there is a need for more focused studies in this area.


In the last and final part of this thesis I will be dealing with how pets help people with mental health problems through the work of various researchers. Stay tuned. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. To read the first part of this thesis click here.


 


Image source edited by me on Canva


All images were designed by me using Canva



#mastersdelta


To Read part one and part three of my thesis please click on the links.




References 




Companion animals and child/adolescent development: A systematic review of evidence 


Factors associated with dog ownership and contact with dogs in a UK community  


Family pets can help boost children's development


What is touch starvation? 20 things to watch for, What to do and More


Children who grow up with pets make more sensitive and sympathetic adults


How pets benefit children in their early years




COMMENT

19

preview not available javier arturo pulido andueza
12 Mar

I remember that since my childhood I have always had a pet, my favorite pet is the dog and when I have children, I will surely allow them to have pets, because I know that having a pet will make them more sensitive and loving human beings.

22

Sofs Su
12 Mar

Hmm, that sounds like me, I have enjoyed every kind of pet and let my children have them too though it meant more work for me. 

Pets do make children more sensitive, loving and expressive. 

Thank you for stopping by, your words always encourage me.

11

Gohar Ali
12 Mar

When i was child i have hen, chicks and pegion at home. They make us active, its a positive activity to spend your time with pets. Caring those pets developd me the sens of care. They are like a family member for us. 

Now after my marriage i feel bored so i kept pets again and they keep me busy all the day. 

22

Sofs Su
12 Mar

I am so glad that you have shared your experience here.

Taking care of pets does truly help develop nurturing qualities in us. 

I am sure that the happiness that you found then made you go back to raising pets again.

Personally, I have had so many pets as a child, even now I have dogs and I also voulunteer to take in rescued animals and birds.

23

preview not available Hafsa M
12 Mar

I never had a pet because having pets is not common where i live but in my opinion, there should be a certain age limit and after that child are allowed to have an pet

22

Sofs Su
12 Mar

I understand your concern.

Letting very small children have pets may not be recommended for the health of the child and the pet. However, children who can take the responsibilty and parents who are willing to chip in when children don't do their job could be allowed to reap the benefits of having pets. 

I have been through this with my kids, but since I love pets I didn't mind, even now my sons dog is with me.

Thank you for stopping by to raise a valid concern.

18

preview not available Hamid Owaisi
12 Mar

Pets really give us a good time and memories to cherish and every good time is just because of their innocent and adorable habbits. They are the epitome of pure love when it comes to understanding. Our pets understand us so much and love to be around us. 

Children also love to play with them and it nurturs their mind so good. They love the way they truly become their best friends. I got two chicks at my home and they are so cute and adorable. I love them so much. 

I hope they stay with me forever because I have developed so much attachment with them.

22

Sofs Su
12 Mar

Very true, they provide unconditional love and do not judge us. The endear themselves to us in such a way that we never want to part with them.

Pets of any kind are so adorable, not because of how they look on the outside, more because of how they act and love us without conditions. 

Thanks for stopping by.

9

Yamin Nuruddin
12 Mar

When they were small, my daughter had three hamsters she kept in a cage in her room, while my son had two small tortoises in a cage, as pets. At the same time, we had a cat, and an aquarium of goldfishes, guppies and other colorful fishes as pets. 

Pets to me are great as stress relievers for adults, and great education for children, as you pointed out above. 

22

Sofs Su
12 Mar

Toroise may be the only pet I've never had among the common ones. I have had guppies in my lily ponds earlier and used to love watching them. They really calm and soothe the soul.

Pets are certainly great stress relievers and a course in nature study for kids.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

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