Presentation (Project) Title

Preliminary Findings on Effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences with/without Pet Interactions on Long-term Health and Well-being through Attachment

Mentor Information

Anthony Coy (Department of Psychology)

Presentation Format

Event

Abstract

Both adverse and benevolent childhood experiences are associated with long-term mental and physical health. Similarly, research on human-animal interactions indicates that pet ownership is associated with better health and well-being. The purpose of this study is to better understand if pet ownership and attachment in childhood may moderate the negative health effects of adverse childhood experiences or have effects similar to benevolent childhood experiences. The current poster examines three simple effects that provide preliminary evidence that this moderation may occur. First, we replicated findings that indicated pet ownership status should be related to attachment anxiety and avoidance during adulthood. Second, we sought to replicate prior findings that childhood experiences were related to physical and mental health later in life. Finally, we sought to determine if childhood experiences were associated with attachment to pets. A sample of 1550 participants was collected using a Qualtrics panel of adults over the age of 40. Participants reported pet ownership status, attachment anxiety and avoidance, pet attachment, adverse and benevolent childhood experiences, and mental and physical health outcomes. The key findings of the study included: 1) pet ownership predicted differing levels of attachment anxiety and avoidance; 2) adverse and benevolent childhood experiences were related to physical and psychological health outcomes and; 3) adverse (but not benevolent) childhood experiences were positively related to stronger attachment to pets. These findings provide preliminary evidence that pets may interact with adverse childhood experiences on mental and physical health by acting as an attachment figure in childhood.

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Preliminary Findings on Effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences with/without Pet Interactions on Long-term Health and Well-being through Attachment

Both adverse and benevolent childhood experiences are associated with long-term mental and physical health. Similarly, research on human-animal interactions indicates that pet ownership is associated with better health and well-being. The purpose of this study is to better understand if pet ownership and attachment in childhood may moderate the negative health effects of adverse childhood experiences or have effects similar to benevolent childhood experiences. The current poster examines three simple effects that provide preliminary evidence that this moderation may occur. First, we replicated findings that indicated pet ownership status should be related to attachment anxiety and avoidance during adulthood. Second, we sought to replicate prior findings that childhood experiences were related to physical and mental health later in life. Finally, we sought to determine if childhood experiences were associated with attachment to pets. A sample of 1550 participants was collected using a Qualtrics panel of adults over the age of 40. Participants reported pet ownership status, attachment anxiety and avoidance, pet attachment, adverse and benevolent childhood experiences, and mental and physical health outcomes. The key findings of the study included: 1) pet ownership predicted differing levels of attachment anxiety and avoidance; 2) adverse and benevolent childhood experiences were related to physical and psychological health outcomes and; 3) adverse (but not benevolent) childhood experiences were positively related to stronger attachment to pets. These findings provide preliminary evidence that pets may interact with adverse childhood experiences on mental and physical health by acting as an attachment figure in childhood.