Childhood cruelty to animals and later aggression against people: a review

Am J Psychiatry. 1987 Jun;144(6):710-7. doi: 10.1176/ajp.144.6.710.


The existing literature on the relationship between childhood cruelty to animals and later violence against people appears to be inconsistent. The authors review the controlled studies that did not support this relationship and those that did and identify several methodological factors that may have contributed to the contradictory findings. Studies using direct interviews to examine subjects with multiple acts of violence point to an association between a pattern of childhood animal cruelty and later serious, recurrent aggression against people. Identification of such a relationship could improve understanding of impulsive violence and facilitate early intervention and prevention.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression*
  • Animal Welfare*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / complications
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Data Collection / standards
  • Female
  • Forensic Psychiatry
  • Homicide
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Prisoners / psychology
  • Research Design / standards
  • Violence