This resource page contains notes about theories and research on the bonding between humans and animals.
A single theory seems to be incapable of encompassing the effects of human bonding with animals. A unitary theory on the complexity of the human-animal relationship has yet to be established (Brown, 2004).
- Social support theory
- Existential: Sartre (1967) reviewed the psychological desire of humans to have contact with animals; the evidence suggests this strong desire may be the result of changes in ontological security. Ontological security is knowing, without conscious awareness that the key areas of an individual’s life are stable and predictable.
Havener, Gentes, Thaler, Megel, Baun, Driscoll, Beiraghi and Agrawal (2001) carried out research on companion animals and their effectiveness in relieving distress in children undergoing various types of dental work. Forty children aged between 7 and 11 years old were chosen as this age group represented Piaget’s concrete-operational stage. The aim was to distract half the children with a dog whilst undergoing a dental procedure, each child being held by the dental nurse and their head harnessed. Sessions were videotaped and data collected prior to, during and after the procedure. Havener et al (2001) discovered that the presence of a dog did not affect behavioural distress, although they did find physiological arousal was lessened for the children already stressed prior to the actual procedure. This study concluded that distress caused by a visit to the dentist was not reduced by a dog companion however it did indicate that the dog had a calming affect prior to the event.
Currently, this is a Psychology 102 resource page for the essay question: "What are the human psychological effects of contact with animals? Discuss with reference to psychological theories and research." See also:
- Moodle discussion about this topic
- Some starting links:
Good essays tended to...
- Explain at least two theories (often biophilia and social support)
- Balance and integrate discussion of theory and research evidence
- Consider positive, null and negative effects of animal contact
Less good essays tended to....
- Utilise only one main theory (often biophilia)
- Focus mostly on research evidence and to provide relatively little consideration of theory
- Focus on positive effects with relatively little mention of null and/or negative effects of animal contact
- Anderson, W., Reid, C., & Jennings, G. (1992). Pet ownership and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The Medical Journal of Australia, 157, 298-301.
- Barker, S., & Dawson, K. (1998). The effects of animal-assisted therapy on the anxiety ratings of hospitalized psychiatric patients. Psychiatric Services, 49, 797-801.
- Beck, A. M., Katcher, A. H. (2003). Future directions in human-animal bond research. American Behavioral Scientist, 47, 79-93. doi:10.1177/0002764203255214
- Beck, A. M., Rowan, A. N. (1994). The health benefits of human-animal interactions. Anthrozoös: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 7(2), 85-89.
- Bokkers, E. (2006). Effects of interactions between humans and domesticated animals. Farming for Health, ?, 31-41.
- Brown, S. (2004). The human-animal bond and self psychology: Toward a new understanding. Society & Animals, 12(1), 67-86. doi:10.1163/156853004323029540
- Fine, A. H. (2006). Handbook on animal-assisted therapy: Theoretical foundations and guidelines for practice (pp. 3-19). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
- Friedmann, E., Katcher, A. H , Lynch, J., & Thomas, S. (1980). Animal companions and one-year survival of patients after discharge from a coronary care unit. Public Health Reports, 95(4), 307-312.
- Friedmann, E., Katcher, A. H., & Thomas, S. A (1983) Social interaction and blood pressure: Influence of animal companions. Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, 171(8), 461-465.
- Frumkin, H. (2001). Beyond toxicity: human health and the natural environment. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 20 (3), 234-240.
- Graham, B. (1999). Creature comfort: Animals that heal. Theories Thoughts and Feelings (pp. 39-67). Sydney: Simon & Schuster.
- Guest, C. M., Collis, G. M., & McNicholas, J. (2006). Hearing dogs: A longitudinal study of social and psychological effects on deaf and hard-of-hearing recipients. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 11(2), 252-261. doi:10.1093/deafed/enj028
- Gullone, E. (2000). The biophilia hypothesis and life in the 21st century: Increasing mental health or increasing pathology? Journal of Happiness Studies, 1(1). 293-321.
- Havener, L., Gentes, L., Thaler, B., Megel, M. E., Baun, M. M., Driscoll, F. A., et al. (2001). The effects of a companion animal on distress in children undergoing dental procedures. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 24(2), 137-152.
- Headey, B. (2003). Pet ownership: good for health? The Medical Journal of Australia, 179(9), 460-461.
- Herzog, H. (2002). Darwinism and the study of human-animal interactions. Society & Animals, 10, 361-367. doi:10.1163/156853002320936818
- Hooker, S. D., Freeman, L. H., & Stewart, P. (2002). Pet therapy research: A historical review. Holistic Nursing Practice, 16(5), 17-23.
- Ishii-Kuntz, M. (1990). Social interaction and psychological well-being: Comparison across stages of adulthood. International Journal of Aging & Human Development, 30(1), 15-36.
- Kesner, A., & Pritzker, S. (2008). Therapeutic horseback riding with children placed in the foster care system. ReVision, 30(1/2), 77-87.
- Kovacs, Z. (2004). Animal-assisted therapy for middle-aged schizophrenic patients living in a social institution: A pilot study. Clinical Rehabilitation, 18, 483-486.
- Marx, R. (2003). Question: Is equine therapy useful in the treatment of eating disorders? Eating Disorders, 11, 143-147.
- McNicholas, J. & Collis, G. (2000). Dogs as catalysts for social interactions: Robustness of the effect. British Journal of Psychology, 91(1), 61-70.
- O’Haire, M. (2009). The benefits of companion animals for human mental and physical health. RSPCA.
- Ormerod, E. (2008). Companion animals and offender rehabilitation: Experiences from a prison therapeutic community in Scotland. Therapeutic Communities, 29, 285-296.
- Parshall, D. (2003). Research and reflection: Animal-assisted therapy in mental health settings. Counseling and Values, 48, 47-55.
- Parslow, R. A., Jorm, A. F., Christensen, H., Rodgers, B., & Jacomb, P. (2005). Pet ownership and health in older adults: Findings from a survey of 2,551 community-based Australians aged 60–64. Gerontology, 51(1), 40-47. doi:10.1159/000081433
- Sable, P. (1995). Pets, attachments, and well-Being across the life cycle. Social Work, ?(3), 334-341.
- Sartre, J. (1967). Words. London: Hamilton.
- Serpell, J. A. (2006). Animal companions and human well-being: An historical exploration of the value of human-animal relationships. In A. H. Fine (Ed.), Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy: Theoretical Foundations and Guidelines for Practice (pp. 3-19). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
- Siegel, J. M. (1990). Stressful life events and use of physician services among the elderly: The moderating role of pet ownership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58(6), 1081-1086. doi:10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1991
- Siegel, J. M., Angulo, F. J., Detels, R., Wesch, J., & Mullen, A. (1999). AIDS diagnosis and depression in the multicenter AIDS cohort study: The ameliorating impact of pet ownership. AIDS Care, 11(2), 157-170. doi:10.1080/09540129948054
- Sockalingam, S., Li, M., Krishnadev, U., Hanson, K., Balaban, K., Pacione, L., & Bhalerao, S. (2008). Use of animal-assisted therapy in the rehabilitation of an assault victim with a concurrent mood disorder. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 29, 73-84.
- Somervill, J., Kruglikova, Y., Robertson, R., Hanson, L., MacLin, O. (2008). Physiological responses by college students to a dog and a cat: Implications for pet therapy. North American Journal of Psychology, 10, 519-528.
- Straede, C., & Gates, G. (1993). Psychological health in a population of Australian cat owners. Anthrozoos, 6(1), 30-41.
- Thompson, K. & Gullone, E. (2003). Promotion of empathy and prosocial behaviour in children through human education. Australian Psychologist, 38(3), 175-182.
- Uchino, B. N., Cacioppo, J. T., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K. (1996). The relationship between social support and physiological processes: A review with emphasis on underlying mechanisms and implications for health. Psychological Bulletin, 119, 488-531.
- Wells, D., (2005). The effect of videotapes of animals on cardiovascular responses to stress. Stress and Health, 21, 209-213.
- Wells, D. (2007). Domestic dogs and human health: An overview. British Journal of Health and Psychology, 12, 145-156.
- Wells, D. L. (2009). Associations between pet ownership and self-reported health status in people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 15(4), 407-413. doi:10.1089/acm.2008.0496
- Wilks, K. (1999). When dogs are man’s best friend — the health benefits of companion animals in the modern society. UAM Conference.