We all know that children and animals can have a very special relationship. I know in our home this is the case between our Labs and our kids! Dogs usually form an amazing attachment to their children, and likewise, children bond strongly to their family's special pet. However, the benefits of a family pet go far beyond the formations of simply a strong loving relationship. In the following article by Daniel Goleman, Children and Their Pets: Unexpected Psychological Benefits, one can begin to grasp the amazing effect a dog has on a child's development.
In new research into the bonds between humans and animals, therapists are discovering that pets provide unexpected psychological benefits for children beyond the obvious. And many of the same qualities that make pets beneficial to children make them useful in psychotherapy, from building rapport with difficult-to-reach patients to bolstering the self-esteem of traumatized children.''People have always loved their pets, but now we're discovering specific ways to harness the benefits of being with an animal in psychotherapy,'' said Dr. Samuel B. Ross, executive director of Green Chimneys Children's Services in Brewster, N.Y., where animals are used in treating emotionally disturbed children.For children, a close relationship with a pet has proved of benefit in study after study. For instance, in research with preschool children, psychologists at Oregon State University found that teaching children to care for a puppy enhanced their social skills.
More Cooperative and Sharing
"It made the children more cooperative and sharing,'' said Dr. Sue Doescher, a psychologist involved in the study. ''Having a pet improves children's role-taking skills because they have to put themselves in the pet's position and try to feel how the pet feels. And that transfers to how other kids feel.''
Children who were regularly given the opportunity to care for a puppy at their preschool, as well as those with pets at home were found more socially competent. They were more popular, felt better about themselves and were better able to understand other children's feelings.The study was reported by Cindee Bailey, a psychologist at Pacific Lutheran University in Portland, Ore., at a meeting in November of the Delta Society, which promotes research on human-animal links. Conferences of the society have emerged as a main forum for new findings in the field. Just how a pet affects the emotional development of a child depends in part on the quality of home life. A study of 309 fifth graders found that for children who had close, supportive relationships with their parents, pets bolstered self-esteem; the effect was stronger the closer the children were to their parents.
Buffer Against Loneliness
But for children who sufferedfrom emotional neglect, the pets took on another role: confidant and buffer against loneliness. In a sense, the pets became substitute mothers, said Dr. Yolande Michaels, a psychologist in Venice, Calif. Dr. Michaels said that for neglected children, treating their pets as friends in whom they could confide helped the children soothe themselves when upset.The ability of pets to make disturbed children feel better has made animals increasingly common in therapy with children.
In one study of children with severe emotional handicaps, half received normal care, attending standard activity groups. The other half were allowed to play with a dog during therapy sessions. Those who had the therapy with a pet improved on key areas of measurement like the ability to control their impulses and understand others, while those who received normal therapy got worse. The study was done by Barbara Wood, a clinical social worker at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.
These studies suggest that dogs, by there very nature, help children in ways that are unique and important to their emotional, social, and psychological development. Dogs truly are mans' best friend! This Valentine's Day, lets be thankful for the devotion that out pets show to us, along with the pure love and loyalty that they give so generously. The relationship we develop with our pets is a true gift and leads to so many rewards. Some of the benefits of owning a dog are tangible and obvious; while other benefits are harder to see but are of extreme importance. Thanks to our pets, we can experience all of these blessings and enjoy a rich rewarding relationship with a loyal companion by our side.