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Research Proposal On Pet Bonding: Factors Influencing Human And Pet Relationship

Pet Bonding: Factors Influencing Human and Pet Relationship



Wide consensus exists that human attitudes and behavior toward pets must be examined in order to develop and enhance the relationship between owners and their pets. This need arose from the different perception of people  in what they consider to be appropriate treatment of non-human animals. Some individuals believe that practices such as sport hunting, the consumption of animal flesh, and the use of non-human species in biomedical and psychological research are unjustified and cruel; in some cases, the very thought of these activities results in emotional distress. For others, these practices pose no particular moral problem and prompt no visceral revulsion.

In the U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook published by Veterinary Statistics (2002), there are more than 60 million pet dogs and nearly 70 million pet cats recorded and registered. The escalating number of pet ownership has also precipitated an increase in the expenses incurred among these pets. In fact, dog owning households spent almost 38 percent more in 2001 as they did in 1996. Beck and Rud (2000) noted that dogs and cats had been the preferred pet of children and adults of which, dogs maintains to be more popular.

The popularity and commonness of owning a pet had been attributed to several factors such as emotional bonding (Horner and Staats 1999) between the owner and the pet, the health benefits derived from the pet in cases such as cardiovascular disease, stress, cancer and as a psychotherapy tool (Herrald, Tomaka, and Medina 2000; Headey, 1999) and the personality development and satisfaction provided by the pet (Beck and Karcher 1996).

Social scientists have only recently begun to explore the origins of attitudes towards non-human animals. There is a small but growing body of literature devoted to factors related to these attitudes. Variables known to influence individual differences in attitudes toward animals include gender (Driscoll, 1992; Hills, 1993); demographic variables such as educational level, geographic region, age, and race (Kellert, 1988); early experience with pets (Paul & Serpell, 1995); beliefs about animal mentality; and religious affiliation (Bowd & Bowd, 1989).

Less is known about the relationship between fundamental personality traits and beliefs about the ethical treatment of other species. Broida, Tingley, Kimball and Miele (1993) examined the relationship between personality as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) and attitudes towards animal rights issues and vivisection as assessed by Takooshian's (1988) Animal Research Survey. Using over 1000 undergraduate college students as subjects, they found that individuals characterized by the MBTI as "intuitive and feeling types" were more supportive of animal experimentation than "sensate and thinking types."

This proposed study shall determine the factors influencing the bonding between pet owners and their pets, the intervening variables in the bonding process and the strength of such attachment. In particular, this relationship shall be evaluated among college undergraduate students. Braithwaite and Braithwaite (1982) in their study of college students’ attitudes towards animal suffering indicated that attitudes supportive of animal rights and welfare generally exist, but that behavior does not always correspond with such attitudes.

In this study, I shall use a personality test which has wider acceptance among mainstream psychologists, the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire, to examine the relationships between personality and attitudes toward the treatment of animals and the Animal Attitude Scale.

Background of the Study

It has been claimed that from prehistory to the present time, humans probably have eliminated more than 10% of the animal species, and that a similar proportion of the existing species are in danger of extermination (Wilson 1993). Simultaneously, it is evident that most humans appreciate contact with animals (Bjerke, Odegardstuen and Kaltenborn, 1998). A majority of households in the Western world keep pets (Rost and Hartmann 1994), and several benefits of companion animals have been suggested (Mallon 1992). Thus, humans express both attachment and antagonism to animals, depending on the species considered, and the degree of conflict which exists over resources between humans and the species. (Kellert and Wilson 1993). 

However, pets have become a very important part of our families. In many cases they have become as much a part of our lives as children or grandchildren. And, in certain ways, just as complicated. Just think of all the questions raised by wanting a pet. Pet ownership has definitely become more complex. Everybody seems to have an opinion on what pet you should get and what being a good pet owner means.

Statement of the Problem

            Pet ownership transcends the traditional human-animal relationship where the animals are treated as commodities and possession. However, the popularity of pets and the emotional attachment it had created between the human custodian and itself had created an impetus for researchers and scholars to explore the factors that influences such attachment or bonding. This study attempts to investigate the factors influencing the bonding of pet custodians and pets, the intervening variables in the relationship, and the benefits one each gets from the other. Since, the locus of the relationship rests so much on the personality of the pet and the owner, an evaluation of the personality of the owner and the attitude attachment scale shall be made.

Research Purpose

            This proposed study aims to achieve the following objectives:

1.    to illustrate the factors affecting the bonding and attachment of pet ownership among college undergraduate students

2.    to analyze the impact of demographic profile (gender, civil status, educational background, and social status) on the bonding process of the pet owner and the pet

3.    to analyze the impact of personality of college undergraduate students on their attitudes on animals and their pets

4.    to evaluate the effect of personality in pet bonding

Research Questions

            In lieu with the objectives of the research, this study shall ask the following questions:

1.    What are the factors affecting the bonding and attachment of college undergraduate students to their pets?

2.    What is the impact of demographic profile (gender, civil status, educational background, and social status) on the bonding process of the pet owner and the pet?

3.    What is the impact of personality of college undergraduate students on their attitudes on animals and their pets?

4.    How significant is the variations in personality on pet bonding?

Scope and Limitations of the Study

This study shall specifically address the pet-human relationship among college undergraduate students and relate it to their emotional, health and personal perception. However, the problem with human-animal interaction studies is in essence a lack of a theoretical foundation on which its applications can be based shall limit this study. If such a foundation can be found, at least some of the variables will be accounted for and it could provide guidelines for predicted success, instead of an approach based on trial and error. The practical problems regarding the keeping of animals, including hygienic aspects, could be solved when addressed in a multidisciplinary way. Nevertheless, this study evaluate the factors posited in the existing literature.


Franklin and White (2001) noted that content-analysis is problematic. Its limits have been widely canvassed ever since Berelson introduced it as a `research technique for the objective, systematic and quantitative description of the manifest content of communication' (1971: 18). Correspondence-analysis is a method for inductively locating latent patterns in large data sets. It is a weighted principal components analysis, in which correlations between and within the rows and columns in a matrix of data are first maximized and then expressed as `axes of inertia' or `dimensions'. The results of the analysis have the sense of Cartesian coordinates.

Variables with similar coordinates in a given dimension are associated, those closest to the axes mark what is centrally at issue in that dimension, and scores furthest from the axes show disparate responses to that issue. The number of dimensions is typically large, but not all of these are interpretable. Some arise from random associations in the data, and some explain so little of the total variability in the table that they can be ignored on the basis of parsimony. The number of dimensions worth interpreting is usually shown by a marked discontinuity in the percentages of variability `explained' by each dimension when all dimensions are listed. Given those interpretive limits, correspondence-analysis can serve as a check on the conceptualization of variables and can suggest non-intuitive connections, but is not best used in formal testing (Greenacre, 1993; Clausen, 1998).

This study shall use a descriptive type of research. In this method, it is possible that the study would be cheap and quick. It could also suggest unanticipated hypotheses. Nonetheless, it would be very hard to rule out alternative explanations and especially infer causations. To illustrate the descriptive type of research, Creswell (1994) will guide the researcher when he stated: Descriptive method of research is to gather information about the present existing condition.  The purpose of employing this method is to describe the nature of a situation, as it exists at the time of the study and to explore the cause/s of particular phenomena. The researcher opted to use this kind of research considering the desire of the researcher to obtain first hand data from the respondents so as to formulate rational and sound conclusions and recommendations for the study.

The research described in this document is partly based on quantitative research methods. This permits a flexible and iterative approach. During data gathering the choice and design of methods are constantly modified, based on ongoing analysis. This allows investigation of important new issues and questions as they arise, and allows the investigators to drop unproductive areas of research from the original research plan.


This study also employs qualitative research method, since this research intends to find and build theories that would explain the relationship of one variable with another variable through qualitative elements in research. These qualitative elements does not have standard measures, rather they are behavior, attitudes, opinions, and beliefs.

            For this research design, the researcher will gather data, collate published studies from different local and foreign universities and articles from business journals; and make a content analysis of the collected documentary and verbal material.  Afterwards, the researcher will summarize all the information, make a conclusion based on the null hypotheses posited and provide insightful recommendations on the dealing with pet ownership and pet bonding.

Instrumentation and Respondents of the Study

A total of eighty (80) undergraduate students shall serve as the population for this study. Undergraduate students were chosen primarily because the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire primarily targets ages 16 and above. The subjects shall complete (in order) the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire, the Animal Attitude Scale, and a demographic questionnaire.

The Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire: The 16PF was developed by Raymond Cattell as a tool for assessing the "normal" personality, rather than a means of identifying patterns of psychopathology (Cattell, Eber, & Tatsuoka, 1970). Cattell used factor analyses to reduce 4000 adjectives related to psychological differences to 16 basic factors. Four second-order factors were developed by factor-analyzing the correlations among the 16 scales. Construct validity of the 16PF factors is considered to be high, and the test questions are regarded as good measures of the personality traits that they purport to measure (Cattell et al., 1970). As Butcher (1985) wrote, "The 16PF is a venerable research instrument that has stood the test of time....There are few things in contemporary psychology that have been around as long and have attained the loyalty among its followers as the 16PF has managed to do" (p. 1392).


Animal Attitude Scale: The Animal Attitude Scale (AAS) assesses individual differences in attitudes toward the treatment of animals (Herzog et al., 1990). It is composed of 29 items which subjects rate on a five-point Likert scale (strongly agree to strongly disagree). This proposed study however, modified the questionnaire to include a twenty (20) item questionnaire. Factors known to influence scores include gender and sex-role orientation (Herzog et al., 1990), empathy (Galvin & Herzog, 1994), personal moral philosophy (Galvin & Herzog, 1992) and beliefs about the capacity of animals to experience mental states.

Scoring: A subject’s raw score for each of the 16 primary factors is obtained through a weighted procedure where particular responses count as "1" or "2" summatively toward the final raw score. These weighted or unweighted sums are then compared to the desired normative score tables in the tabular supplement where a particular ten score is identified based on the magnitudinal range of the response and the individual normative demographics of the respondent. This ten score is entered on the profile form and subsequently depicted graphically for ease of interpretation.

Reliability: Reliability coefficients calculated by test-retest with short intervals (single or multiple day) demonstrate relatively acceptable coefficients, with only sporadic instances of a scale falling below a .70 magnitude. For stability coefficients, test-retest administrations conducted over long intervals (several weeks), magnitudes are expectedly reduced.

Validity: Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire and the Attitude Attachment Scale are reported to have the greatest total direct validity where each form has seven scales with validity coefficients of at least .70 magnitude. Indirect construct validities are also reported in the form of multiple correlation coefficients, representing the degree of relationship between each primary scale magnitude and the total remaining primary scale magnitudes in the 16PF.


Review of Related Literature


The ontological insecurity deriving from the fragmented and fugitive nature of postmodern labor markets, communities and domestic relations is evident in changed relationships with pets. Critically, the mid-century `pets' as toys, ornaments or amusements have been transformed into the late modern `companion animals'. These increasingly serve as surrogates in the absence or loss of human sociability and emotional engagement (Franklin, 1999:194-6). Franklin cites studies showing that their purchase often follows closely the domestic and familial ruptures associated with Giddens's sense of ontological insecurity (Katcher and Beck 1983).

The body of literature concerning the effects of pet ownership and the nature of pet-human interactions is mixed with regard to the effect of pet ownership on well-being. Some researchers have found positive effects of pet ownership, such as a longer life (Friedmann, Katcher, Lynch, & Thomas, 1980) or lowered blood pressure (Vrombrock & Grossberg, 1988). Other researchers found no such relationships (Robb & Stegman, 1983) or found that pet ownership is beneficial only to individuals who are old and alone or in poor health (Garrity, Stallones, Marx, & Johnson, 1989).

This section shall illustrate and evaluate the relationship or bonding between human beings and animals in terms of the factors affecting the relationship such as: personality of the pet, personality of the owner, benefits derived from the relationship, emotional development and health benefits of the pet owner and the pet and the impact of demographic profile on the attachment to pets. Moreover, the theories in personality development in animals and human beings shall be discussed in lieu with the analysis on pet-human theoretical foundations.

Human-Animal Relations

Historical trends and contemporary patterns in human--animal relations have been widely studied over the last 20 years (Franklin and White 2001). Accounts span sociobiological claims that old patterns from humanity's prehistoric past are resurfacing now that religious and scientific institutions are no longer marked by policies of apartheid (Wilson 1993), and historical claims that new relationships with animals were established in the early modern period (Thomas 1983).


Sociobiologists have been prominent in the study of human--animal relations. Kellert and Wilson (1993), for example, postulate that genetic predispositions were set during the `deep history' of the human species. According to this account, as modernization distanced humans from animal contact, so deep-seated psychic longings created demands for more secure and stable relations with animals. In this literature, however, the dynamics of changing human--animal relations are treated only in the most speculative way.

Individualized `attitudes' reduce the complexity of people's relationships with and views of animals. This is evident in, say, Kellert's naturalistic and ecologist attitudes, which he has defined respectively as `a primary interest and affection for wildlife and the outdoors' and `a primary concern for the environment as a system, for the interrelationship between wildlife species and natural habitats' (1993: 54).

Emotional Development of Pets

Griffin (1992, viii) posited that animals do indeed experience "conscious thoughts". He found that ethnologists have I recently discovered that some animals express both feelings and simple thoughts. Therefore these communicative signals in turn provide us with a promising source of ob objective data about the mental experiences of animals (Griffin, 1992, ix).


Griffin suggested that any thinking animal is likely to guide its behavior on the basis of the content of its thoughts however simple or limited such thoughts may be (Griffin, 1992, 4). Animal obtain most of the information that affects their behavior through their sense organs, including those that signal conditions within their bodies. But some mental experiences are probably based on past sensory input; and some may arise through recombination into new patterns of information already present in the central nervous system (Griffin, 1992, 4).


Factors Influencing Pet-Human Bonding

Several theorists had associated the bonding between pets and human beings on demographic factors such as gender (Galvin & Herzog, 1994; Bailey, 1994; Nibert, 1994; Pifer, 1994; Pifer, Shimizu, & Pifer, 1994), age (Bjerke, Odegardstuen, and Kaltenborn, 1998; Bailey, 1994; Nibert, 1994), science literacy (Morrison, 1992; "Taking the Offensive," 1990; Nelkin & Jasper, 1992) and income. However, the most popular factor in the literature is the personality factor (Howard, 1992; Griffin, 1992; Netting, Wilson and New, 1987), emotional bonding (Horner and Staats 1999; Miller, Staats, & Partlo, 1992p; Singer, Hart, & Zasloff, 1995; Gosse & Barnes, 1994; Katcher, 1989; Stallones, Marx, Garrity, and Johnson, 1988; Voith, 1985) and personality development (Beck and Karcher 1996; Levinson 1972; Melson and Fogel, 1989). Recently, pet-human bonding had also been looked at as a therapy for health issues such as stress, cardiovascular disease and even cancer (Herrald, Tomaka, and Medina 2002; Friedmann & Thomas, 1995; Headey, 1999; Siegel, Angulo, Detels, Wesch, & Mullen, 1999). Furthermore, pet ownership has also been recommended as a psychotherapy tool.

Pet-Human Bonding and Demographic Factors

One of the most consistent findings in studies of attitudes about animal rights and animal research has been the gender difference. Past studies have found that women are more likely to support the animal rights movement and to oppose animal research than men (Bailey, 1994; Nibert, 1994; Pifer, 1994; Pifer, Shimizu, & Pifer, 1994). The relationship between science attitudes, scientific literacy, and attitudes about animal research may explain, in part, these gender differences. Moreover, younger adults have been found to be more likely to support animal rights than are older adults (Bailey, 1994; Nibert, 1994).

Moreover, the relationship between scientific literacy, attitudes toward science, and attitudes toward animal research has been the subject of frequent discussion. It has been suggested by some that opposition to animal research can be directly linked to the general level of scientific literacy in the United States (Morrison, 1992; "Taking the Offensive," 1990). Others have suggested that opposition to animal research is representative of a broader, anti-instrumental attitude, one that represents disillusionment with science (Nelkin & Jasper, 1992).

In addition to general attitudes about science, scientific knowledge and scientific literacy have also been associated with attitudes about animal research (Birke & Michael, 1992; Morrison, 1992; "Taking the Offensive," 1990). Pifer, Shimizu, and Pifer (1994) found an inconsistent relationship between a knowledge of scientific concepts and opposition to animal research across 14 nations. Pifer (1994) found the relationship between adolescents' science achievement scores and their opposition or support of animal research varied based on gender.

Human and Pet Personalities

Although humans and pets have personalities, there is a certain criterion of human uniqueness. According to Griffin, reflective consciousness is a unique human characteristic which means that animals may know certain things, but they do not know that they know (Griffin, 1992, 11). People can tell what they are thinking about, but animals are held to be incapable of doing so, yet animal communication may often serve the same basic function (Griffin, 1992, 11). He also says that detecting whether animals experience reflective consciousness should make us cautious about ruling it out.


Dogs take a bite out of stress because they provide unconditional support without scrutinizing their owner's sometimes frantic attempts to meet a challenge (Bower, 1991, 295). Bower (1991, 295) reported new findings that pets often help to buffer their owners from stress and illness. Many studies have shown great survival rates of those who owned a pet, especially a dog. With the companionship and attachment of a pet, individuals with heart problems or other medical problems proved to have a stronger predictor of survival than just having a family member or a friend support.


The value of pets in improving their owners' physical and mental 10 health is widely acknowledged, and the use of pet-assisted therapy is growing (Frost, 1991, 39). More and more studies on the relationships of animals to people have been designed and conducted (Netting, Wilson and New, 1987, 60). And there are increasingly new programs which combine the child and their pet (Netting, et. al., 1987, 60).


There has been quite a lot of research done on pet personality but not enough to say that there are specific theories or concepts directly related to personality and pets. There are four dimensions that characterize the effect of social roles on the individual (Netting, Wilson & New, 1987, 61): (1) The number of roles; (2) The intensity of involvement; (3) The pattern of participation over time and; (4) The degree of structure the role imposes.


Another theory that is closely related to social theory is the exchange theory. It is simply stated that this theory suggests that people continue to engage in relationships only as long as the benefits of their interactions outweigh the costs (Netting, Wilson & New, 1987, 61). Emphasis here is toward the children, disabled, retarded, elderly and the imprisoned. To them, the pets may provide valuable relationships that serve such functions as companionship, tactile stimulation, safety and nonjudgmental emotional support (Netting, et al., 1987, 61).


            Some researchers have confessed that they have missed many intriguing aspects of animal reasoning and behavior and ignored continuities that do in fact exist among species as varied as humans, monkeys, birds, and dolphins due to the unappreciated intellectual taboo called anthropomorphism (Hardigg, 1983, 69- 70). Anthropomorphism is defined as "the ascribing of human motivation and characteristics to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena" (Webster's II New Riverside Dictionary, 1984, 32). These researchers are calling for a re-evaluation of anthropomorphism. Scientists have criticized anthropomorphism in order to validate the distinction between human beings and the rest of nature. Even if scientists have criticized anthropomorphism, many pet owners have been practicing anthropomorphism for decades.


            Beck (1983) argued  that animal names reflect the individuality and personality of the pet and that the he act of naming implies that these animals are going to be given special treatment and that individual attributes or personalities are likely to be claimed for them. Thus, in giving one's animal a name, one is attributing personality traits and individualism.


            This is also evidenced by many owners who  treats their pets more like humans at the dinner table. Many are feeding their pets "human" food. By feeding an animal "human" food, it transforms the animal automatically into a companion. (Beck, 1983, 47).


            However, there are some negative reasons why human beings should not attribute human characteristics onto their pets. Hardigg (1983) argued that although animals and humans can share emotions, the conditions that inspire them can be quite different. Hearne also stated that the happiness of animals can be very different in human terms" (Hardigg, 1983, 70).


            Kidd (1988) argued that in a compatible person/pet relationship, the animal's personality mirrors the owner's and vice versa. Male owners were aggressive and dominant while female owners were easy-going and nonaggressive (Kidd A.H., 1983, 719). Beck (1983) agrees with Kidd R. (1988) about animals and humans personality being a mirror image. There has been an "ancient belief that people and animals can share identity and change one into the other" (Beck, 1983, 78).


            Another limitation of animals is that they do not have the ability to reason. Human beings are the only species to have the ability to reason. "Animals must do whatever they can to ensure their survival, even if it means feeding on their offsprings or siblings. Animals can not grasp moral principles or reason as people do" (Howard, 1992, 739).

Despite inclusive approaches to human-animal interaction, it was mainly the emotional and positive aspects that caught the imagination of the public and researchers alike. It was specifically highlighted in the use of animals in therapeutic situations, which involved disabled persons. In this regard the pioneer in the field of animal-facilitated psychotherapy was Boris Levinson, a psychiatrist who had his practice in New York. Levinson (1962, 1964, 1965) began his observations in a very modest fashion by noting that his own pet dog at home, where his practice was situated, could assist him in the therapeutic approach to children with communication problems. History proved Levinson right and silenced many of his critics.

Pet Ownership and Personality Development

There is growing evidence that interaction with animals has important implications for child development, especially in the areas of social growth and communication (Beck and Karcher 1996; Levinson 1972). One study demonstrated that animals facilitate social interaction no matter whether they are cats, dogs, birds, or spiders (Nielsen and Delude, 1989). There is even evidence that the mere presence of animals alters a child's attitudes toward him- or herself and improves the ability to relate to others (Messent 1983). In addition, caring for a pet is a particularly effective way to teach our children how to be nurturing and respectful of nature (Melson and Fogel, 1989).

Rowan and Beck (1994) argued that there is already solid evidence of animal contact having significant health benefits and that it positively influences transient physiological states, morale and feelings of self-worth, but that more research funds are needed to identify the scope of the influence of animal contact.

The role pets play in the physical and emotional well-being of their owners has received considerable attention in the popular media, as have studies of the use of pets in hospitals, nursing homes, and other care facilities (Beck and Katcher 1996).

Pet-Human Emotional Bonding

Humans appear to have an emotional bond or attachment to their companion animals that is not unlike what they experience with their family and friends. People often perceive their companion animals as friends or as part of the family (Gosse & Barnes, 1994; Katcher, 1989). Stallones, Marx, Garrity, and Johnson (1988) found that 95% of companion animal guardians regarded their pets as friends. In a survey done by Cain (1983), 87% of respondents considered their companion animals members of the family; in another study, 99% of dog or cat guardians entering a university veterinary clinic identified their companion animals as family members (Voith, 1985).

People often make important life decisions based on consideration of their pets (Horner and Staats 1999; Miller, Staats, & Partlo, 1992). For example some homeless people will not take advantage of shelters where their pets are not allowed (Singer, Hart, & Zasloff, 1995).

Children who are emotionally ill respond to the unconditional and nonjudgmental quality of animals. They feel the animal "listens and understands". In believing the animals care for them, they feel needed, important and loved. They then become capable of taking the risk to trust and love (Nagengast, Baun, Megel, and Leibowitz, 1997).


Adults on the other hand, own some kind of a pet for many different reasons. But they are within hands of caring owners to comfort and care for each other. Both pet and owner relay this communication through their personalities which "elicit positive reactions from others in one's typical dealings with them" (Mischel 1993, 5).

Pets act as a substitute for human relationships for people and previous research suggests that pet owners are psychologically different than non-owners in terms of self-esteem and other personality characteristics (Johnson & Rule, 1991, 249). Elizabeth Thomas, author of "The Hidden Life of Dogs" argued that dogs have thoughts and feelings (Thomas, 1993, xv). Most animals, especially dogs, constantly evaluate other species by means of empathetic observation.


Health Benefits of Pet Ownership

Despite the disbelief of many, research has demonstrated the beneficial effects of pets on physical and psychological health and well-being (Herrald, Tomaka, and Medina 2002). Indeed, even the National Institutes of Health (1987, 1988) acknowledges that human pet interactions can provide medical benefits, especially among elderly populations. Several scholars and researchers suggests that by providing their owners with love, security, responsibility, or purpose in life, pet ownership promotes both physical health and psychological well-being (Friedmann & Thomas, 1995; Headey, 1999; Siegel, Angulo, Detels, Wesch, & Mullen, 1999).


There are many terms used to describe ways in which animals can help rehabilitate and heal persons with special needs. These include "pet therapy", "pet facilitated therapy", or "animal-assisted therapy" (Beck 1996). Pets can help people with a variety of mental, emotional and physical disabilities. Fish, birds, pocket pets, rabbits, cats, dogs, horses have all been employed in pet therapy.


Empirical demonstrations of the benefits of having pets are many. Friedmann and colleagues (Friedmann, Katcher, Lynch, & Thomas, 1980; Friedmann & Thomas, 1995), for example, found that pet ownership predicted 1-year survival rates of coronary patients. In fact, pet ownership predicted survival rates better than did marital status and family contacts (Friedmann et al., 1980). Serpell (1991) found that acquisition of a dog or cat was associated with a reduction in minor health problems over a 10-month period.


Pets can assist the physically handicapped in a variety of ways. Therapeutic riding is being used for persons with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and others with diminished motor control (Fick, 1993). It helps to improve their posture, balance, mobility and function. It also provides significant emotional and cognitive benefits. Physically handicapped pets have been terrific role models for persons with physical disabilities.


Persons with terminal illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, and organ failure, and those who are bedridden are less likely to suffer from depression if they have animals around them (Lamb, Dziegielewski, and Leon, 1998) . The animals bring a level of comfort and support unique to them.


To the extent that pets do provide support, pets might buffer owners against stress (Siegel, 1990). For example, Gage and Anderson (1985) found that pet owners who reported high levels of stress also reported that interacting with their pets helped them to cope with stress. Along these lines of research, Albert and Bulcroft (1988) found that pets aided coping with stress by helping people to maintain morale during stressful times (e.g., divorce, death) and by making people feel needed.

Animal-assisted psychotherapy

Although the need for positive interaction already exists in the basic behavioral patterns of many living organisms, attention need behavior only becomes clearly identified and more meaningful in advanced and well-developed social systems as a universal emotional need. Attention-seeking behavior is not a new idea and it is used especially when problem behavior in humans and social animals is described. In order to distinguish between problem behavior and a normal need, a Latin description was chosen to standardize its use in all languages. The term attentions evens thus describes the need for attention on a normal, basic emotional level as the prerequisite for all successful social interaction.

In 1929 it was found that when a person strokes a dog, the dog's blood pressure will decrease, but it was only some fifty years later that it was determined that the person's blood pressure also decreases with such positive interaction (Cusack and Smith, 1984). Friedmann (1995) reported that physiological effects on the role of pets enhancing human well-being since 1980 were diastolic and systolic blood pressure, plasma cholesterol, plasma triglycerides and skin conductance responses. Other symptomatic indications of physiological effects were anxiety and stress relief, or in physiological terms the effects of the autonomic nervous system. The range of benefits that owners might derive from their pets may not pertain only to pet owners; one could speculate that anyone, not just pet owners, could benefit from the presence of friendly animals" (Friedman, 1995).

Personality Theories as Basis for Human-Animal Interaction

Alfred Adler's (1930) theories developed through three stages. His final theory is viewed as humanistic and in this sense it has had a notable influence on other psychologists. Adler (1930) argued that humans function as a whole and behavior is determined by setting specific objectives in order to achieve superiority, perfection and totality. This is a creative process in which genetic and environmental factors play a role, but are not deterministic in nature. Adler's theory of striving for superiority by setting specific objectives to reach certain aims can be described as teleological. The aim determines the behavior engaged in to reach it. If feelings of inferiority are not compensated for in a balanced way, an inferiority complex will develop.

Gordon Allport (1937) on the other hand, studied the individual as a structured whole. Allport's theory is sometimes referred to as the trait theory, because of the uniqueness of every personality, acquired from the person's background and childhood experiences. Although traits among people are common and can be compared, there may still be unique individual traits. In the course of development, each person acquires motives as part of satisfying basic needs. This is called the concept of functional anatomy of motives. These motives continue to function autonomously without further reinforcement of the physiological conditions originally concerned in their acquisition (Allport, 1937).

Horney (1950) saw psychotherapy as the acceptance of the self and an extension of the person's relationship towards other (including pets). This helps the person to free himself of his fixation on one type of personality.

Erich Fromm's (1947) views are applied to being human in general rather than the individual's unique characteristics. He saw humans as dualistic beings with an animal and a human nature. The human's physiological needs follow physical natural laws and they are seen as animal in nature, while self-awareness, reason and conscience are seen as typical of human nature. Based on their ethical-rational abilities, humans can transcend their instinctive animal-like behavior and their actions are thus mainly determined by conscience and not instinct. These unsolvable conflicts are inherent to human existence.

Albert Bandura's (1977) social learning theory has more support among academic psychologists than any other personality theory, because it integrates behavior and the gestalt or field theories successfully. His theory agrees with behaviorists that behavior is mainly learned and that studies should concentrate on observable behavior. However, it also deals with self-regulating processes such as thought, symbolism, expectations, planning, self-assessment and convictions. It does not include psychoanalyst concepts, but rather concepts from the cognitive, gestalt and phenomenology psychology. It also emphasizes the role of observation as the most important part of learning and the fact that reinforcement is not always an essential part of learning. Behavior is acquired through environmental, especially social influences, while genetic factors play a small role (Bandura, 1977).

Henry Murray (1938) recognized the influence of physiological factors on behavior. He believed in the working of the sub-conscious, he used social-sociological and social-psychological explanations to indicate the influence of social factors, but he also made provision for the individual's imagination and allowed for a phenomological approach. Murray distinguished between bodily (viscerogenic) and psychological (psychogenic) needs and believed that the latter do not merely develop from the first.

Theoretical Foundations of Pet-Human Bonding

For animal rights theorists, for example, speciesist attitudes have simply become `obsolete' and `indefensible' (Singer, 1995), while Ryder (1989) explicitly appealed to `progress' as an explanation of change. Other writers have given more theoretical accounts of long-term change. Historical studies such as Thomas's (1983) on the period 1500-1800 and Ritvo's (1994) on 19th-century England were informed by anthropological and social theory. Thomas (1983) identified the origins of middle-class sentiments towards animals with the enlightenment, urbanization and the keeping of pets; `sentiments' here indicate an enhanced emotional content and thoughtfulness in human relationships with animals, and need not imply insincerity, shallowness or anthropomorphism. Ritvo argued that 19th-century campaigns against cruelty to animals had regulatory effects in curbing working-class disorder and promoting familial responsibility. Tester (1992) extended this Foucauldian study in his historico-sociological analysis of animal rights movements since the 1970s. Franklin (1999) in turn reconciled much of this work with recent and more general accounts of socio-cultural change in his sociology of human--animal relations.


Drawing on anthropological claims that the parallel, metaphorical worlds of animals always and everywhere offer humans a site to think through historically and culturally specific moral tensions, Franklin (1999) argued that a decline in anthropocentrism (the assumption of the moral ascendancy and centrality of humans in the world), the emergence of zoocentrism (the recognition of animals as full or partial moral subjects), changing `sentiments' and a rise in animal-related risk-assessments are intertwined with the more general tensions of late-modern or postmodernizing societies (Harvey, 1996; Beck, 1992). In particular, he argued that risk reflexivity, misanthropy and ontological insecurity were key factors in contemporary human--animal relations.

Sentiments have become more intense and more diverse over the 20th century, but especially under postmodernity or late modernity; while the dating is contested, various authors converge on the mid to late 1970s as a critical period of transition (Rojek 1995). The range of animals sentimentalized has broadened, to include amphibians, insects and marine mammals as well as kittens and puppies. Creepy-crawly trails in national parks, whale watching, suburban pond studies by children and wildlife documentary-making all bear witness to this. Franklin (1999) argues that the content of animal sentiments has also changed, from the post-war focus on entertainment exemplified by Disney's and other cartoons to a stress on education, protection and empathy.

Animal Cruelty: Implications on Human Interaction

The mental health field has become increasingly interested in how cruelty against non-human animals may affect human behavior. Animal cruelty is defined as the "willful, infliction of harm, injury, and intended pain on non-human animals" (Kellert & Felthous 1985). Cruelty and aggressive behavior toward non-human animals is also categorized as socially unacceptable, intentional or deliberate, and unnecessary (Ascione 1993; Vermeulen 1993). Bowlby believes that the way children learn to treat animals is correlated with how they later treat people (Kellert & Felthous 1985). There may even be some evidence that cruelty toward non-human animals is a universal negative outcome characteristic of a troubled child. Margaret Mead posited, based on her observations of diverse cultures, that people who as children had been cruel against non-human animals were more likely to be cruel toward humans (Mead, 1964 as cited in Baenninger, 1991).

There is no clear reason why children and adults, in general, practice cruelty toward animals. This aggressive behavior is as complex as trying to answer why violence occurs. Many of the researchers who study violence against non-human animals and interpersonal violence do not attempt to explain violence against non-human animals in depth. However, those who do imply an association between committing animal abuse and a lack of empathy (Broida, Tingley, Kimball, & Miele, 1993; Agnew, 1998).

Animal Rights Activism

Jasper and Nelkin (1992) connect the animal rights movement with broader attitudes about science. They suggest that activists from various social movements in the 1980s began to show opposition to science. Such protest movements formed around an anti-instrumental position and an emphasis on moral rather than instrumental values. Younger activists, according to Jasper and Nelkin, are more likely to question accepted scientific practices.

Birke and Michael (1992) found that some scientists explain animal rights activism by the public's anti-science attitudes. Broida, Tingley, Kimball, and Miele (1993) surveyed college students and found that faith in science was the best predictor of attitudes about animal research.


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