Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Social Work

First Advisor

Walter LaMendola, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Phil Tedeschi

Third Advisor

Nicholas Lange

Fourth Advisor

Jeff Jenson


Adoption, Animals, Emotional security, Social environment, Social robot


This study investigated the development of emotional security among 6-10 year old children who have been adopted by exposing them to an experimental condition during which they could engage with either a live dog or a robotic dog. The live dog was a certified therapy dog; the robotic dog was a FurReal® toy marketed by Hasbro as "Biscuit." Utilizing a mixed-method embedded experimental design, the experimental condition was intentionally structured to promote engagement between the participant and the dog or robot. 43 children who had been adopted from the child welfare system were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group was exposed to a therapy dog (n=22), while another was exposed to the social robotic dog (n=21). The development of emotional security was targeted for measurement in this study using the "Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test," a test of social understanding that has been linked in the literature to oxytocin- a hormone premised to be a marker of the development of emotional security. Physiological anxiety was also measured as an indicator of emotional security using the Revised Child Manifest Anxiety Scale-2 (RCMAS-2). Both measures were administered before and after exposure to the experimental condition. A linear mixed-effect regression analysis showed that for boys only, there was a significant effect of engagement with either companion on social understanding (p

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Kate Trujillo


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

146 p.


Social Work

Included in

Social Work Commons