CAMBRIDGE, United Kingdom — If sibling rivalry is wearing you down in your house, it may be time to buy a dog or two. A new study finds that kids would rather spend time with a pet than with a sibling.
The study, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, followed 77 12-year-olds and the relationships they shared with their pets and their brothers or sisters. The authors found the children experienced “more satisfaction and less conflict with their pets than with their siblings.” In particular, dog owners showed a closer bond with their pooches than owners of other pets.
The study also found girls tended to harbor stronger feelings of companionship with their pets than male participants in the study, but conversely more conflict as well. Girls also disclosed more personal information to their pets than boys did.
“Anyone who has loved a childhood pet knows that we turn to them for companionship and disclosure, just like relationships between people,” lead author Matt Cassells, of the University of Cambridge, says in a media release. “We wanted to know how strong these relationships are with pets relative to other close family ties.
Cassells says the study may lead researchers to a better understanding of how pets aide a child’s development. The fact that pets can’t talk back to children when they disclose information or engage in conversation may be even healthier for a child than engaging with a sibling who could bark back with an opinion.
“Evidence continues to grow showing that pets have positive benefits on human health and community cohesion,” says Dr Nancy Gee, a co-author of the study. “The social support that adolescents receive from pets may well support psychological well-being later in life but there is still more to learn about the long term impact of pets on children’s development.”
So next time your children are clawing at one another and there’s no more hair left for you to pull out, consider a furry mediator to help bring peace to your household.