Does Pet Ownership Really Help Kids? Science Weighs In

In recent years, a number of studies have found a positive correlation between pet ownership and childhood health. At first, such news would seem like a another good reason to purchase a dog or cat. Unfortunately, it seems that this apparent link may not exist after all.

A Bigger and Better Look

Seeking to put the children’s health/pet ownership hypothesis to the test, researchers from the RAND corporation examined roughly 2200 pet- owning households. The physical and psychological health of these subjects were compared against nearly 3000 households who abstained from pet ownership. The RAND team could review all of this data thanks to the 2003 California Health Interview Survey, which surveyed each of these households.

The study authors directed their focus towards families that had at least one child in the 5 to 11 age range. To gauge childhood health, the authors documented parental concerns over their children’s mental health, and further noted
instances of ADHD diagnoses.

Adding Ingredients to the Mix

Initially, the RAND team found an association between better childhood health and pet ownership, echoing previous smaller studies. ADHD was less prevalent among children from pet-owning families. Parents from pet-owning households expressed less concern over their children’s mental health and learning capabilities.

However, the story became quite different once a plethora of variables were added to the equation. Over one-hundred such variables were taken into consideration by the RAND team, including the following household familial income, language skills and family housing. This additional information had a major impact on the team’s findings, as the apparent link between good childhood health and pet ownership vanished.

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