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Pet Owners Have More Positive Traits

Update Date: Jan 31, 2014 05:30 PM EST

Young pet-owners may have more positive traits, a new study suggests.

While previous studies reveal evidence that the presence of animals positively affects children in therapeutic settings, very little is known about the relationship between everyday interactions with animals and youth development.

The latest study suggests that young adults who take care of animals have stronger social relationships and connections to their communities.

 "Our findings suggest that it may not be whether an animal is present in an individual's life that is most significant but rather the quality of that relationship," lead researcher Megan Mueller, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist and research assistant professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, said in a news release. "The young adults in the study who had strong attachment to pets reported feeling more connected to their communities and relationships."

After surveying more than 500 participants between the ages of 18 and 26 about their attitudes and interactions with animals, researchers found that young adults who cared for animals reported engaging in more "contribution" activities, such as providing service to their community, helping friends or family and demonstrating leadership, than those who did not.

Furthermore, the more participants engaged in the pet's care, the higher their community contribution scores. They study also linked high levels of attachment to an animal in late adolescence and young adulthood to feeling connected with other people, having empathy and feeling confident.

"We can't draw causal links with this study but it is a promising starting point to better understanding the role of animals in our lives, especially when we are young," added Mueller.

The findings are published in the journal Applied Developmental Science.

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