How Pets Help Children with Anxiety
Sep 06, 2018
Research presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracked around 650 children for 18 months. The children aged four to ten, via their parents, were quizzed about factors like body mass index (BMI), physical activity level, "screen-time," the existence and types of pets, and their mental health history. The study found that children who belonged to families with dogs as their pets exhibited a noticeable variation in stress levels and anxiety. The study findings showed:
- 58 percent of kids had a dog at home
- 12 percent of those children tested positive for stress and anxiety
- 21 percent of the children without dogs in their life, were positive for anxiety
Dogs are Especially Helpful with Social Anxiety and Separation Anxiety
It is probable that dogs could help remedy childhood anxiety. Certain types of anxiety such as social and separation seem to be particularly helped. It is possible that interaction with pet dogs often act as an icebreaker and stimulate conversation and interaction. This effect alleviates social anxiety through what is called the social catalyst effect. The companionship that dogs offer often alleviate separation anxiety and help strengthen attachment.
Study Backs-up Previous Findings
The idea that pets, especially dogs, help with anxiety and stress is not a new one. It has been observed and considered anecdotal for years. It has even been studied before in similar but smaller study groups. The new research, carried out in a real-world setting, used a much broader representation of children than previous studies. Researchers say that more needs to be done to solidify the link between dogs, children, and anxiety reduction.
What Causes the Stress Reduction?
The cause for the occurrence isn't well understood. However, Oxytocin, a hormone that aids in social bonding could be at play. It is known that the simple act of petting an animal can release the hormone in most. Social interaction of children and dogs may lead to an increase in oxytocin levels the child and the dog, increasing bonding. Interacting with a pet dog may also reduce cortisol levels which ultimately could help with childhood obesity through stress reduction.
If you want to foster a calm and happy environment for your kids, introducing a dog to the family may be something to consider. Be sure to research the dog breeds and choose one that matches your lifestyle. Or, better yet, visit the local shelter and give a rescued dog a forever home. Here are three of the most common breeds known to be excellent with children, and their traits.
- Labrador Retriever: Labs are sweet dogs who are docile, loyal, and energetic. They love interacting with small children and large families. They can grow large, up to 85 pounds. However, they make good companions and are easily trained. Labs are happiest living in a nice fenced yard.
- Golden Retriever: Similar in nature, disposition, and size as a Lab. Golden Retrievers have long hair which makes frequent brushing and grooming necessary. Golden Retrievers are happy indoors and outdoors.
- Welsh Corgi: A favorite of Britain's Royal Family, they may be perfect for yours as well. These smart, loving dogs are small with short legs. They do very well as inside pets and are easily trained.
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Category: Anxiety Therapy