Pets are good for your kids. Pets help promote better physical health in kids. They are also key in helping them develop better psychologically.
These are claims that have been made by studies in recent years. And they have been convincing in that they have always had data to backup their claims. But are their claims really true? Not according to a recent study.
If you acquired a dog or a cat in the hopes that it will boost your child’s psychological and mental health, your efforts may likely have been in vain. This is a conclusion that scientists and researchers arrived at after conducting a wider and more extensive research study. Their findings are way different from earlier ones. And as they admit, they too didn’t expect to arrive at this conclusion.
A larger and more-exhaustive research study on the health benefits of owning a pet
This study was carried out by Rand Corporation researchers. They used more advanced statistical tools than the previous studies. And they considered way more factors than the previous studies. It was a wider, more extensive and more exhaustive study done by researchers of an independent health policy research organization.
This study was better than the previous ones because it didn’t have the shortcomings of the earlier studies that concluded that owning a pet has health benefits. According to the researchers, a major flaw of the earlier health research studies was that they failed to take into account the effect that factors, other than pet ownership, might have contributed to the health benefits in their results. A good example of one of these factors is family income.
The Rand researchers conducted their studies with these factors in mind. They used statistical models that took into account the differences in gender, age, income and other factors that might have led to a person being treated differently — this can cause better psychological health.
With this in mind, the researchers pored over data contained in a California Health Interview Survey. They analyzed randomized data from over 5000 households that had children that were between the ages of 5 and 11.
They then considered additional information. This included diagnosis for conditions like ADHD, language skills, any pre-existing behavior and mood concerns that the parents already had about their child, the type of housing they lived in and the household income. In total, they factored in over 100 variables in their study.
It seemed there were health benefits of to owning a pet
Taken at face value, their findings seemed to agree with the earlier findings. The data seemed to show that children in pet-owning families were in better health. These children also tended to be more physically active. Their parents were also likely to be less concerned about their ability to learn, behavior, feelings and mood.
Until they took a second look
But things changed when they adjusted for the other variables. When factors like household income were taken into account, the link between pet ownership and health benefits disappeared.
No physical benefits. No psychological benefits.
As Layla Parast, a RAND statistician and a corresponding author of the research said:
“ 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…. Everyone on the research team was surprised… We had essentially assumed from our own personal experiences that there was a connection.”