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An Investigation into the Association between the Witnessing of Animal Abuse and Adolescents' Behavior toward Animals

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Research (Baldry, 2003; Flynn, 1999, 2000a; Henry, 2004) has linked witnessing abuse to nonhuman animals with the committal of such acts. This study reports frequency data based on adolescents' self-reported witnessing of animal abuse and involvement in animal-directed behaviors. The study investigates associations between witnessing abuse and engaging in both positive and negative animal-directed behaviors. 281 adolescents, 12-18 years of age, completed measures of animal cruelty and the humane treatment of animals. As predicted, the study found a history of witnessing animal abuse associated with significantly higher levels of animal cruelty. The study reported significantly higher levels of cruelty for those who had witnessed a friend, relative, parent, or sibling abuse an animal and significantly lower levels for those who had witnessed a stranger abuse an animal. Participants who "Frequently" witnessed animal abuse reported significantly higher levels of cruelty than those who viewed abuse "A few times". There was no association found between humane treatment of animals and the witnessing of animal abuse. Positive influences, peer mentors and humane education, would help to combat this cycle of abuse.


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