We know the significant effect parent-child interaction has on childhood development. Now, the results of recent UK studies published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health report that a child’s social, emotional and cognitive development can all be effected by interaction with a child’s pet.
According to the National Center for Health Research, this impact is particularly significant when a child does not have siblings. The research shows that a family pet helps children develop greater empathy, show higher self-esteem, as well as increased participation in social and physical activities.
Furthermore, researchers report in the American Journal of Public Health that social skills, such as effective interaction with their peers and control of their emotions can be as important a childhood indicator of future success and happiness as academic performance. A child’s social relationships are the foundation of their overall development. These social skills influence a child’s health and well-being for their entire life.
The studies on childhood pet interaction and social development show an increase in social skills; greater social networking; and more effective social interaction behavior. While researchers feel that more work needs to be done to fully understand the cause and effect relationships between children and their pets, it seems pretty clear that pets can benefit our children in a variety of important ways.
As further research clarifies specific childhood health benefits from pet ownership, this information could be helpful in updating policies that might affect our children, such as regulations for daycare centers, schools and other places where animals are discouraged, but could be beneficial to our kids.
Jeanine Roddy, M.A., CCC-SLP
Frisco Feeding & Speech Therapy