Date of Award
Walter LaMendola, Ph.D.
Animal cruelty, Companion pet attachment, Human animal bond
This study examines empathy, parental attachment, companion pet attachment and social behaviors in a sample of 120 students between the ages of 18-20 enrolled at Front Range Community College in Westminster CO during the fall semester 2008. The study is based on the research questions posed by Thompson and Gullone (2008) but pays particular attention to the relationships between and among variables measured in that study as well as their association with variables indicating companion pet companionship. The research questions are: (1) does parental empathic attachment predict prosocial and antisocial behaviors during older adolescence or young adulthood? And (2) does pet attachment compensate for low parental attachment? The hypotheses are that (1) parental attachment varies directly with empathy, humane treatment of animals, and prosocial behavior and inversely with antisocial behavior (animal cruelty); (2) pet attachment varies directly with empathy, humane treatment of animals and prosocial behavior and inversely with antisocial behavior (animal cruelty); and (3) pet attachment compensates for low parental attachment, serving as a moderating variable.
The hypothesis that parental attachment varies directly with empathy, humane treatment of animals, and prosocial behavior and inversely with antisocial behavior (animal cruelty) was not supported by the overall results as parental attachment was not significantly associated with any variables. There was support for the hypothesis that companion pet attachment varies directly with empathy and humane treatment of animals; but there was no association between companion pet attachment and parental attachment or animal cruelty. In this study, it was found that the variance in humane treatment of animals and animal cruelty could only be accounted for by empathy; parental attachment explained 1% of variance in prosocial behavior. The hypothesized mediating role of empathy was not supported in these findings nor was the moderating role of companion pet attachment. For the 18-20 year old sample it does not appear that secure parental attachment relationships is associated with empathy, humane treatment of animals, companion pet attachment, or prosocial behavior toward humans.
There were a number of limitations related to the scales used in this study as the researcher attempted to replicate the Thompson and Gullone (2008) study. Further research might utilize scales already standardized with older adolescents and young adults.
Additionally, this researcher suggests further research into the concept of "emerging adulthood" as the age range studied falls between adolescence and young adulthood.
Anderson, Christian, "An Investigation into Associations with Attachment, Companion Pet Attachment, Empathy, and Prosocial Behaviors in 18-20 Year Old College Students" (2010). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 31.
Received from ProQuest