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Treasuring, Trashing or Terrorizing: Adult Outcomes of Childhood Socialization about Companion Animals

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Being hit or being given away are subabusive, common behaviors that harm companion animals. Violent childhood socialization increases the risk of adult abuse of animal companions, but relatively little is known about the origins of societally tolerated maltreatment of pets by adults. University students completed surveys about general attitudes toward animals, family socializaton, and current relationships with pets. These students generally had positive childhood socialization about pets and reported high levels of current attachment. Adults whose parents had given children's companion animals away had a heightened likelihood of giving their own pets away. Mothers' kindness to their children's pets was associated with adults' attachment to animal companions, but attachment was not related to the likelihood of hitting current pets. People who score high on a measure of pet abuse potential hit their pets. The pattern of findings related to gender implies that males are at somewhat greater risk for having negative socialization experiences involving pets, for greater pet abuse potential as adults, and for weaker attachments. However, females were equally likely to hit their pets or give them away. The childhood predictors of attitudes about animals, pet abuse potential, hitting pets, giving away pets, and attachment found in this nonclinical, noncriminal sample contribute to our understanding of developmental influences upon relationships with companion animals.



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