The research, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, shows that children get along better with their pets than they do with their brothers and sisters.
Researchers surveyed 77 12-year-old children in households with more than one child at home and a pet. The children reported stronger relationships with their pets than with their siblings. Children with dogs reported greater satisfaction and companionship than those with other types of pets.
Boys and girls had the same level of satisfaction with their pets, but girls reported more intimate disclosure, companionship, and conflict with their pet than boys did. Researchers say that this may indicate that girls interact with their pets in more nuanced ways.
"The social support that adolescents receive from pets may well support psychological well-being later in life but there is still more to learn about the long term impact of pets on children's development," says researcher Nancy Gee, a co-author of the study. "Evidence continues to grow showing that pets have positive benefits on human health and community cohesion."
Researchers also suggested that children bond with their pets because they cannot understand or talk back to them - pets are non-judgmental.
Photo Credit: Donnie Ray Jones