Loading...
The University of Chicago Header Logo
Keywords
Last Name
Institution

They Call it Puppy Love: Epidemiology and Biology of the Child-Dog Bond


Collapse Overview 
Collapse abstract
There is growing evidence that pet ownership and human-animal interaction (HAI) and child-pet attachment may be beneficial for children with autism and other disabilities. However, whether HAI and attachment confers similar protective effects among a community sample of children at-risk for other behavioral and emotional disorders is unknown. Similarly, whether the potential protective effects of the child-dog bond are moderated by environmental, social, and psychological characteristics of children has not been systematically evaluated. Finally, the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of the positive effects of child-pet attachment are largely undiscovered. Using a community-based sample of children aged 10 to 18 from an ongoing, currently funded project ("From Neighborhoods to Neurons and Beyond," 5DP2 OD003021), the present proposal seeks to address these gaps in our knowledge through a three-phase study of the epidemiology and psychological and biological basis of the child-dog bond. In Phase I, we will characterize the incidence of pet ownership among a community-based sample of 1,200-1,500 families with adolescent children in 6th - 8th grade who have participated in a prior school-based study of adolescent problem behaviors. In Phase II, we will determine whether individual differences in the quality of child-dog relationships are related to individual differences in aggression, delinquency, substance use, and depression, and whether child temperament and/or environmental conditions mediate or moderate these relationships in a sample of 200 children from Phase I and their siblings and caregivers, all of whom are participating in the PI's ongoing study. Finally, we will begin to explore the underlying neurobiology of the child-dog bond through a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study of brain activation in response to pictures of pet dogs in a sample of 48 children, and will further explore biological mechanisms underlying the potential protective effects of the child-dog bond by comparing changes in oxytocin, vasopressin, and cortisol following a mild stressor in children who own dogs (N = 24) versus non- pet owning children (N = 24).

PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: There is growing evidence that pet ownership and human-animal attachment and interaction may be beneficial for children with autism and other disabilities. However, whether human-animal attachment and interaction through pet ownership confers similar protective effects among a community sample of children at-risk for other behavioral and emotional disorders is unknown. This study will address this question by linking new measures of child-dog attachment to existing behavioral measures from a large community sample of adolescents, and will also help us to better understand neurobiological pathways that underlie individual differences in the child-dog bond that may further serve as protective influences for child development.



Collapse sponsor award id
R03HD066598


Collapse Biography 

Collapse Time 
Collapse start date
2010-07-01

Collapse end date
2013-06-30