For families with children during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial to explore how both youth and parents view their roles with regard to the shared caretaking of pets. We present findings from a U.S. based study of adolescents and parents regarding pet care responsibility. As part of a broader longitudinal study, we analyzed survey data from 567 pet-owning adolescents and a subset of 356 dog owning adolescents aged 10–17. We also conducted 31 in-depth interviews with parents of adolescents from the same study. Adolescents who reported more pet caretaking responsibilities were more likely to spend time with pets to cope with stress and to have improved family relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic. For dog owners only, increased levels of responsibility for the pet was significantly associated with a higher likelihood of identifying as a pet owner. Qualitative findings showcase the range of parental expectations and adolescent initiative around pet caretaking. Our study highlights the continued importance of pet companionship during the adolescent years as they develop their identities as responsible pet owners.
Research reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under award numbers 5R03HD101060-02 and 1R15HD094281-01. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.