Pets help kids develop social, emotional skills

Photo by Matheus Bertenilli for Pexels

Kids whose family has pet dogs develop stronger socially and emotionally according to a new study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) publication Journal Watch.

The study reviewed in the publication’s July 15 issue by Jenny Radesky, MD., was conducted by The PLAY Spaces and Environments for Children’s Physical Activity (PLAYCE) which examines the early childhood education and care, home and neighborhood environment to promote physical activity, health, and development in children aged two to five years.

According to PLAYCE, researchers analyzed data from an Australian cohort study in which parents of 1646 children (mean age, 3 years) were surveyed about dog ownership and their child’s social and emotional development.

Here’s what they found –

*Young children from dog-owning families had lower peer problems and conduct problems, and higher prosocial behaviors than children from non-dog-owning families.

*Children of dog-owning families who walked or played with their dog more often also had better prosocial behaviors.

*Positive social–emotional development was associated with dog ownership, family dog walking, and dog play in young children.

*Social–emotional benefits of owning a dog may begin early in childhood.

*Findings suggest that  having a dog and interacting with it through play and walking may be important mechanisms for facilitating young children’s social–emotional development.

While dog ownership has been associated with increased physical activity in adults and improved social and emotional outcomes in older children, the study is  the first effort to examine the benefits of dog ownership in children younger than age 5-years, Radesky, said. 

Study findings may potentially have public health implications, as well,  the research team said. 

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