Pet Ownership, Child Anxiety, Child Physical Activity and Mother’s Perception of Children’s Health Status

Noel David Castro & Eric W. Lindsey

Applied Psychology Program, Pennsylvania State University Berks Campus

This study examined possible connections between pet ownership and children’s health status, as mediated by children’s anxiety and physical activity. A total of 134 mothers with a preschool age child participated in the study. Mothers completed a demographic survey, responded to questions about owning a pet, and reported on their child’s anxiety, physical activity, and physical health status. Mean comparisons revealed that children from households with a pet had lower scores on mother reported anxiety, higher scores on mother reported physical health and psychosocial health, and lower scores on mother reported vulnerability to illness, compared to children from households without a pet. Regression analyses revealed that associations between pet ownership and mother’s reports of children’s physical health and lower vulnerability to illness, but not psychosocial health, remained significant even after accounting for mother education and family income. In addition, the association between pet ownership and child physical health and vulnerability to illness was partially mediated by mother reported child anxiety. The present study supports previous evidence to suggest that pet ownership is associated with better health outcomes for children, and that this link may be accounted for by child anxiety.
Keywords: pet ownership, child health, child anxiety, child physical activity, preschool children.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Eric W. Lindsey, , Penn State University Berks Campus, P.O Box 7009 Tulpehocken Road, Franco 116, Reading, PA 19610
Acknowledgment: The authors want to give special thanks to Brian London and Jinkeun Hahn for their help in data entry and manuscript review. Additionally we would like to thank the families who participated in the study.

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Posted in Volume 9, No. 2