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Social and Emotional Development: Kids Benefit from Pets

Anyone that grew up with a dog or cat (or both) knows the psychological benefit of having a pet.  When a child feels their parents don’t understand them or are having trouble with friends or siblings, a pet is always there with unconditional love.   These normal trials and tribulations of social and emotional development can be hard to handle without the support of a furry friend.

Researchers are now finding what people that have grown up with pets know from experience and intuition. According to the New York Times:

For such a tremendously widespread phenomenon as pet ownership, there has been very little research to steer by.

But now researchers are looking at a range of questions, in normal child development, in childhood obesity, in traumatized children and in autism. Dogs, you might say, are having their day.

The research is still limited, but the questions are intriguing, as scientists bring rigor to the study of emotional and psychological effects of pet ownership, along with traditional pediatric concerns of allergies, bites and infections.

“There is evidence that some individual kids seem to benefit from their relationship with these animals,” said James Serpell, director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania. “Everyone wants to know what the mechanism is.”

I think that every child should have a pet!

A friend of mine told me once that you have one good dog in your life. I disagree, as I have had special relationships with multiple dogs throughout my life.  I was very close to my cat growing up, but when I went away to college, she was very cold to me when I would visit home.  Dogs don’t exhibit this sort of behavior, thus I think they make better pets for children.

Pet companionship has been found to be beneficial for the elderly, it only makes sense that children would also benefit.

I believe relationships with pets is not only important for social and emotional development, I also believe they help children develop an empathetic relationship with nature.  My close relationships with pets as a child naturally led to my vegetarianism, as I wanted to do little harm to animals.  A connection to animals, whether domesticated or wild, is important to fostering environmentalism in our children.


  1. I’m a furry friend lover too. Had a cat then a dog. Cats are a little more complicated. So yeah, dogs would be better for children. They help to teach responsibility as well, as kids learn to care for the pets. Hoping to pick up another dog from SPCA sometime soon. :)

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