Are Pets Good for your Kid’s Health? New Research Sees No Link

It’s long been thought that having a pet around the house improves your child’s health. Now research is saying that there is no clear evidence that is the case.

We love our pets and consider them part of the family – that much is certain. A Pew Research Centre study of over 3,000 adults found that 85 percent of dog owners consider their pets to be a part of the family. Past research studies have suggested that social skills in children grew stronger the longer their family had owned a dog. And this may be especially true for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) according to certain research.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, found that “autistic children who lived with dogs had greater mean scores for social skills – measured using a standardized assessment called the Social Skills Improvement System Rating Scale – than those who didn’t. Individual skills tested included communication skills, capacity to cooperate, assertiveness, taking responsibility, having empathy for others, capacity for self-control, and being able to engage with others. Carlisle found that those with any kind of pet had a significantly greater capacity for assertiveness than those who had none.”

Now however, new research by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, in what is self-described as “largest-ever study on the pet-health” contradicts previous findings. The paper, published in the multidisciplinary journal Anthrozoos, is entitled “A Propensity-Score-Weighted Population-Based Study of the Health Benefits of Dogs and Cats for Children” and is authored by Jeremy N. V. Miles, Layla Parast, Susan H. Babey, Beth Ann Griffin & Jessica M. Saunders.

Layla Parast, RAND Corporation“The ultimate test of the pet-health hypothesis would require a randomized trial where some people are given pets and others are not, with the groups being followed for 10 to 15 years to see if there are differences in their health outcomes… Such a study would likely be too costly and/or infeasible to implement, and I’m afraid it’s not likely to be funded by anybody.” — Layla Parast, RAND Corporation

The study cited information on more than two thousand children with pets and more than three thousand children without them. What they found was that “children in pet-owning households were significantly healthier than children in non-owning households when it came to general health and positive behavior. But when estimates were adjusted for other variables such as such as income, housing and affluence, the effects were no longer statistically significant. ”

According to statistician and co-author Layla Parast, “Everyone on the research team was surprised — we all have or grew up with dogs and cats. We had essentially assumed from our own personal experiences that there was a connection…. We could not find evidence that children from families with dogs or cats are better off either in terms of their mental well-being or their physical health.”

According to a recent RAND Corporation press release, “The ultimate test of the pet-health hypothesis would require a randomized trial where some people are given pets and others are not, with the groups being followed for 10 to 15 years to see if there are differences in their health outcomes… Such a study would likely be too costly and/or infeasible to implement, and I’m afraid it’s not likely to be funded by anybody.”

 

RESOURCES:
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10803-014-2267-7
https://www.sciencealert.com/any-kind-of-pet-can-strengthen-the-social-skills-of-children-with-autism
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-08/rc-lso080717.php
https://www.rand.org/news/press/2017/08/07.html
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08927936.2017.1335103
http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/pets-not-good-kids-health-study-article-1.3391305
http://elitedaily.com/elite/5-ways-dog-can-improve-life-everyone-needs-good-pup/2038184/

 

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