Children's representations of pets in their social networks

Child Care Health Dev. 2001 May;27(3):279-94. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2214.2001.00202.x.


Objectives: To develop a child-friendly methodology to study children's representations of social support available from their personal relationships; and to examine children's representations of support from their pets compared to support from human relationships.

Design: Participants were 22 year-3 primary school children aged 7-8 years. They were asked to list all the people and animals important to them and then to select a 'top 10' of most special relationships. Using a story-based methodology, children were asked who from their 'top 10' they would turn to if they were the child in the story.

Results: Consistency in the data indicated that the children could reliably discriminate between different relationships in terms of the support functions they serve. Pets were often ranked higher than certain kinds of human relationship, and they featured prominently as providers of comfort, esteem support and confidants for a secret. Confidence in these findings is gained through pets not being nominated for functions they could not realistically perform.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic* / psychology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Social Support*