Why Every Family Should Have a Pet, According to Science

by Dana Covit

Confidence, strong interpersonal relationships, positive coping mechanisms, low blood pressure: What magical force could possibly impact such disparate variables? Animal lovers will be happy to learn that a new study out of Tufts Institute found that owning a pet is the source of these miraculous effects.

This particular study, which was conducted by the Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction (TIHAI) in partnership with the Military Child Education Coalition, sought to understand how owning a pet might positively impact children whose parents were absent due to military service. What they found was that “animal ownership was linked to a host of positive outcomes” in all the kids, whether they had a parent deployed or not. Previous studies have found that dogs, in particular, may be a secret to mental health.

Researchers found that the subjects studied tended to be more confident, have stronger relationships with their families and peers, and better coping mechanisms during trying times if they were close with an animal growing up. According to developmental psychologist and co-associate director of TIHAI, Megan Kiely Mueller, “strong attachments to pets may foster a more proactive attitude about handling stressful problems and could serve as a bridge to developing and maintaining peer relationships during stressful circumstances."

The cause is thought to be that “pets provide a nonjudgmental, emotionally supportive relationship, especially for kids who may be having difficulty in social situations or moving to a new social setting." Add to that the "responsibility of caring for another living creature and understanding an animal’s needs” and we think it's time to make room for a furry friend at home.

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What do you think of the findings? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

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