Development of Empathy and Compassion
One of the most common assumptions about the beneficial role of pets in children’s development is that they help youngsters develop empathy and compassion. In the limited body of research about children and their pets, several studies have produced scientific evidence in support of this assumption. It does, in fact, appear that people who display greater empathy toward animals are also more empathic toward people. Furthermore, this tendency seems to be linked with a history of childhood experiences with pets. These findings are not, however, sufficiently strong or conclusive as to suggest that children who grow up without pets will necessarily be lacking in empathy.
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Nonetheless, a European study involving 540 four-, six-, and eight-year-olds found support for a link between pet ownership and children’s displaying higher levels of helpful or beneficial behavior toward others.
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