This study used longitudinal data from 940 pet-owning adolescents, collected over four time points from youth in the northeastern United States. The researchers assessed whether pet relationship quality predicted trajectories of loneliness, social anxiety, and depression.
The results indicated that high satisfaction with a pet relationship was associated with more favorable trajectories, but companionship (i.e., regarding the frequency of interacting with the pet) was not related significantly to socio-emotional functioning. High levels of disclosure to a pet were linked with less favorable trajectories for loneliness and depression, but not related to social anxiety.
These results suggest that a pet relationship can, in some cases, be associated positively with socio-emotional development, but that there is significant complexity in these associations. Families, educators, and practitioners should take a nuanced approach to understanding individual adolescent-pet relationships as an asset for specific youth.
Research reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development under award numbers R03HD101060 and R15HD094281. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.