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[21 NOV 00] UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK NEWS
Children 'Prefer Pets To Adults'

Pets can be more important to children than their family, according to research by psychologists at the University of Warwick.

New research by Dr June McNicholas and Dr Glyn Collis both from the Department of Psychology, has for the first time examined the bond between children and their animals.

They found that more than over 90 per cent of children saw their pet as being in their top ten most special relationships.

The researchers also found that:

Pets appeared in the top five relationships for many of the children - above a substantial number of human relationships.

In some cases pets even came above all human relationships

Though pets were not as important a relationship for children as parents they were a valuable source of support, especially for comfort, self-esteem and sharing.

Child-pet relationships were characterised by affection, trust and an absence of conflict.

The research, to be published this month in the journal Child Care Health and Development as "Children's Representations of Pets in their Social Networks", also found that mothers were by far the top choice of children - closely followed by fathers.

Amongst pets the family dog performed best - outshining many other relatives, and even teachers, as a source of support in some situations.

The two researchers tested a class of primary school children, aged 7-8, by outlining to them a series of stories depicting small children in difficult situations such as being ill in bed, being bullied in school, or having a special secret about a magic door at the bottom of their garden

They were then asked who or what would they turn to first about this situation, and who next if they were unavailable, and so on until each child's top five choices for each situation emerged.

The children displayed a reassuringly high degree of common sense when asked to make these choices.

No child said they would get their pets to help with something that, in reality, only a human could help them with.

Mothers were the top choice for almost every situation. Fathers came close but mothers were considered much more appropriate for comfort when ill or when a child needed to a confide a secret.
 
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CWN / Education / University of Warwick / 21 Nov 00

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