“The research is still limited, but the questions are intriguing, as scientists bring rigor to the study of emotional and psychological effects of pet ownership, along with traditional pediatric concerns of allergies, bites and infections.
“There is evidence that some individual kids seem to benefit from their relationship with these animals,” said James Serpell, director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania. “Everyone wants to know what the mechanism is…”
There’s a common conviction, for instance, that living with a pet teaches children skills they can use in their social interactions with other humans. “The belief is that maybe animal-owning children are a little bit more aware unconsciously, have learned nonverbal communication,” Dr. Beck said.
Gail F. Melson, emerita professor of human development and family studies at Purdue, cautions that cause and effect may go in the other direction. Maybe children with greater empathy skills are more likely to develop relationships with animals.”
Article: Can Fido and Whiskers Enrich Children’s Lives?, NYTimes.com