Exploring Human-Companion Animal Interaction in Families of Children with Autism

J Autism Dev Disord. 2020 Mar 4. doi: 10.1007/s10803-020-04390-x. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

The study goal was to explore companion animal (CA) ownership in families of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including parents' beliefs about benefits and burdens of CAs, as well as parent stress. Participants (N = 764) completed online survey instruments anonymously. Findings revealed that parents with lower incomes perceived more benefits of CAs and their children were more strongly bonded with their CAs. Parents owning both a dog and cat perceived more benefits than those with only a dog or cat. Dog owners perceived more benefits than cat owners. Parents who perceived their CAs as providing more benefits had less stress. Provider implications are to consider recommending CAs to families of children with ASD for family benefits including lower parental stress.

Keywords: Autism; Autistic children; Companion animals; Parent stress.