Commit b80b729f authored by Jean Michel Rouly's avatar Jean Michel Rouly

Added psychology article.

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<h1>Reactions of Infants and Toddlers to Live and Toy Animals</h1>
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<strong>Aline H. Kidd</strong> <sup>1</sup>,
and <strong>Robert M. Kidd</strong> <sup>2</sup>
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<strong>1</strong> <em>Mills College, Oakland</em><br/>
<strong>2</strong> <em>V. A.M.C., Martinez</em>
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Coming soon!
<em>Summary.</em> 250 infants, 25 boys and 25 girls each in the 6-, 12-, 18-,
24-, and 30-mo. age groups, were individually observed with a mechanical toy
dog which barked and moved realistically, a contact-comfort mechanical cat
which purred and meowed when hugged and pettcd, and the family dog(s) and/or
cat(s), presented in random order. An investigator-generated checklist of
proximity-seeking and contact-promoting behaviors was used co record subject
responses demonstrating whether the infants anached to pecs because of tactual
qualities, sounds, movement, familiarity, and/or behavioral qualities. It was
hypothesized that as babies age, their responses to the live pet and toy
animals would become progressively dissimilar and that older infants would show
significantly more attachment behaviors and would spend significantly more time
observing and interacting with live pets than with toy animals. Data support
the hypotheses and indicate significant differences in the quantity of
attachment behaviors toward live pea and toy animals at one year. From one
year on, dogs are significantly preferred to cats by both sexes. During the
first year, boys show significantly more attachment behaviors than girls; the
two sexes are equal at 18 mo., and girls show significantly more attachment
behaviors than boys at 24 and 30 mo.
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An attachment is an enduring emotional tie between a person and another
specific person, object, or animal. It is demonstrated by such
proximity-seeking behaviors as approaching, following and clinging, or by such
contact-promoting behaviors as smiling, calling, or crying (Bowlby, 1969;
Ainsworth, et al., 1978). Most of the growing numbers of studies of attachment
between children and companion-animals have focused on school-aged children.
There is very little research on attachment between infants and toddlers and
family pets.
In studying human development, Levinson (1972) noted that infants who are
exposed to a variety of interesting stimuli will later adjust more easily to
novel situations than infants who get little or no stimulation, and that pets
can provide just such interesting and complex stimuli. He further noted that
where there are family pets, infants less than 6-mo.-old suck their thumbs less
frequently than infants without pets and that during the second six mo. after
birth, pets, security blankets, stuffed toys and other such transitional
objects serve as bridges between the baby and the outside world. He also noted
that, during the second year, infants tend to follow the family pet, thereby
improving their crawling, walking, and muscle tone, and that some pets,
primarily dogs, help protect some young children from environmental dangers.
Although these ideas are based solely on Levinson's observations of a very
limited sample, they do point to a reasonable direction for research.
Because pets are usually loyal, attentive, nonverbal, and unconditionally
devoted, Beck and Katcher (1983) hypothesized that pets might help provide
ideal mothering for very young children and so might aid in children's normal
development away from symbiotic relationships with their mothers, and help with
the development of separate autonomous identities. There are, however, no data
supporting this interesting conceptualization as yet.
Filiatre, et al. (1985) studied the interactions of 18 2- to 5-yr.-old children
with dogs and reported a number of notable observations. Interactions between
children and dogs lasted longer if the children initiated the contact. There
was more interaction if the child was younger than the dog. The longest
interactions occurred if the dogs had been in the family before the children
were born. The more siblings the child had, the more limited the interactions
between the younger child and the family dog. Interaction time was longer if
the children touched the dog's neck, forelegs, belly, and sides than if they
touched other parts and/or if the dog touched the children's bodies. The longer
the interaction lasted, the more likely the children were to stroke and kiss
their pets. Female dogs were kissed and stroked longer than were male dogs. The
younger infants were usually more aggressive toward the dogs than mere the
older toddlers but were less likely to display aggression if the dog was larger
than they were. They concluded that dogs play an important part in regulating
interactions with infants, so dogs' behavior may contribute toward babies'
acquisition of structured, socially effective behavioral repertories.
Eby (1985) surveyed a number of child development experts for her magazine
article on the relationship between babies and pets, and noted from
developmental psychologist Dr. Katherine Nelson's 1973 smdy of 10- to 24-
mo.-old children that "dog," "cat," pets' names, and animal sounds comprise the
largest category of first words and that "mommy," "daddy," "keys," "bottle,"
and names of favorite foods were next most frequently used words, probably
because infants' use of these words produce the strongest responses. From
personal interviews, Eby also quoted developmental educator Dr. Annette Axtmann
as suggesting that the interest in pets arises from babies' awareness of their
own capacity to influence objects around chem. Developmental pediatrician
Michael Yogman was quoted as supporting the idea that animals may give babies a
feeling of how they influence other living things and how other living things
respond to them. Cognitive psychologist Dr. Miriam Schustack was cited as
noting that infants have to look up at adults but can interact easily with pets
who are often the same size and on their same space level, and social
researcher Dr. Margaret Nachmann was credited with commenting chat pets are
physically active in ways that arouse infants to respond on an emotionally high
Kidd and Kidd (1985) found that 98% of their 3-yr.-olds said that they loved
their family pets, clearly showing that they had already formed human/
companion animal attachments. This raised questions about the age at which
children attach to their pets. A. H. Kidd (Kidd and Kidd, 1985) did an
unpublished pilot study in which she observed five 6- to 12-mo.-olds in
pet-owning families. All of these babies smiled when the family dog or cat
entered the room. The four 8- to 12-mo.-olds either followed or tried to follow
the pet. Although the behavior of these babies does not prove attachment, these
proximity-producing behaviors (Ainsworth, et al., 1978) suggest that child/pet
attachment may occur as early as the first year of life.
Because of the limiied amount of-research on Children under three years of age,
it is presently unclear whether infants and toddlers do direct such attachment
behaviors as gazing, smiling, following or attempting to follow, babbling or
talking, and reaching or grabbing toward the family pet(s). If attachment
behaviors are shown, a number of questions arise. Are they attracted by tactual
qualities, movement, sound, novelty, or a combination of such qualities or by
the responsiveness of the pet to them? Are they more attracted when a live or a
mechanical animal approaches them or when they do the approaching? D o they
show differences in the number and/or intensity of attachment behaviors which
are dependent on the species of the pet? Are there significant differences
between boys and girls in attachment behaviors directed toward pets?
It is, therefore, hvpothesized that as infants age from 6 to 30 mo., their
responses to an animate pet and an inanimate toy animal will become
progressively more dissimilar on all variables observed on an
experimenter-designed checklist of proximity-seeking and contact-promoting
It is further hypothesized that older subjects will spend significantly more
time observing and interacting with Live pets than with mechanical toy animals
and will show significantly more attachment behaviors toward live pets than
toward mechanical toy animals.
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Infants and toddlers, 25 boys and 25 girls in each of the following age groups
(Day 1 of birth month through Day 30/31 of month following) : 6-, 12-, 18-,
24-, and 30-mo.-olds, were individually observed at home with a parent and the
family pet(s) present. An attempt to achieve proportional samples of young
families with both babies and pets residing in the greater San Francisco Bay
Area was vitiated by our subject- locating survey which indlcared that most
such urban families of whatever racial, ethnic, and cultural status were living
in environmental situations which precluded pet owner- ship. The subjects came
from families having one or more dogs, one or more cats, or both dogs and cats.
The sample included 250 babies: 99% living in intact families, 90% living in
suburban homes, and 1 0 % living in urban homes. Of these families 134 had a
dog or dogs, 84 had a cat or cats, and 32 had both dog(s) and cat(s).
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A firm, battery-operated toy dog which realistically walked, wagged its tail,
sat up, and barked and a soft, battery-operated realistic toy cat which did not
move, but meowed when its back was stroked or hugged, and purred when petted on
the head were used.
An experimenter-designed checklist for each subject covered such
proximiry-seeking and contact-promoting behaviors as amount of time spent
watching, smiling or laughing at, holding, clutching or playing with, following
or attempting to follow, and verbalizing to or at the live pet and/or the toy
animals. It also covered such negative or rejectiog behaviors as the child's
pulling away from, ignoring, or pushing the pet or toy animal away.
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Directors of day-care centers, ministers, and directors of Sunday School
nurseries were contacted. After the project was described and discussed, they
were asked to recommend parents of appropriate-aged infants and toddlers.
Parents of potential subjects were then contacted by telephone. Those who had
neither dogs nor cats were politely thanked for their time and response. Those
families which did have a pet or pets and a child of appropriate age had the
purpose and procedural requirements explained and were invited to participate.
An appointment to observe the infant and pet was made.
At the appointed time, the researcher brought two mechanical toy animals to the
home and, in the presence of the parent(s), the infant or toddler was observed
with the family per(s) and with each of the mechanical toy animals. For
observation with the mechanical dog, the infants were first shown and permitted
to handle the toy if they reached or exhibited an interest. The dog was then
activated and further observations noted. Because the toy cat was inanimate and
merely made sounds when hugged or handled, it was first moved toward the babies
by the researcher, and then the infants were permitted to pet and hug it if
they reached or exhibited an interest. The very young had their hands guided by
the researcher or parent for the initial contact if necessary. The order for
presenting the toys and the family pet(s) was determined primarily by the
immediate situation but was nonsystematic to prevent fatigue and practice
effect. The observations took about twenty minutes. All subjects were treated
in accordance with the ethical standards of the American Psychological
Probably because the research design required that the observation be conducted
in the familiar environment of the family home and presence of one o r both
parents as well as the familiar family pet to help avoid stranger anxiety or
fear on the part of the infant, high parental enthusiasm, participation, and
cooperation was obtained. Of all the 256 families with both a pet and
appropriate-age infant contacted, only one did not want to participate. Data
were accually collected on 255 subjects, but five had to be eliminated. There
were two sets of twins and in neither case could the babies be separated for
individual observations without undue stress. The fifth family animal was a
trained watchdog and the parents permitted absolutely no contact between the
baby and the animal.
All 250 subjects' checklist responses to the live pet, the mechanical dog, and
mechanical cat were tallied and the data analyzed by z tests for the
significance of the difference between proportions. The amount of time subjects
spent responding to the live pet, to the mechanical dog, and to the mechanical
cat were tallied and the data analyzed by analyses of variance for repeated
measures, and by t tests.
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In multipet situations, it was clear that each baby atrached more closely to
just one of the family pets. Of our 250 infants and toddlers, 60% were attached
to dogs and 40% to cats. There were no significant sex differences in the
percentages attached to dogs or cats. All of the 12- through 30-mo.-old
children showed significantly more attachment behaviors directed toward the
live pet than coward the mechanical animals. They spent a significantly longer
time interacting with the live pecs (F2,240 = 8.11, p ≤ .01) than with the
mechanized animals. The Tukey gap test indicated that 6-mo.-olds spent
significantly less time with the live pets than did the 12-, 18-, and
24-mo.-olds ( p ≤ .01); that there were no significant differences in time
spent with the live pets among the 12-, 18-, and 24-mo.-olds, but that the
30-mo.-olds spent significantly more time than did the 12-, 18-, and
24-mo.-olds ( p ≤ .01). 97% of the babies smiled at the live pets and only 79%
smiled at the mechanical animals, a significant difference ( z = 6.00, p ≤
.01). The babies held or clutched live pecs significantly more often than
mechanical pecs ( z = 3.67, p ≤ .01); they followed or attempted to follow the
live pet significantly more often than they did the mechanical dog, which also
moved "independently" ( z = 4.29, p ≤ .01), and they verbalized significantly
more often ro live pets than to mechanical animals ( z = 5.60, p ≤ .01). There
were no over-all significant differences in reactions to the two mechanical
There were significant sex differences. Boys between 6 and 12 mo. showed a
significantly higher percentage of attachment behaviors than girls ( z = 6.00,
p ≤ .01). There were no significant sex differences in the percentages of
attachment behaviors at 18 mo., but the 24- and 30-m~.-old girls showed a
significantly higher percentage of attachment behaviors than did the boys ( z =
7.40, p ≤ .01). For the first 18 mo., boys laughed at their pets ( z = 2.70, p
≤ .01) , held their pets ( z = 2.81, p ≤ .01), and followed or tried to follow
their pets ( z = 4.57, p ≤ .01) significantly more often than did girls. When
their pecs approached them, they permitted continued contact ( z = 3.43, p ≤
.01) and verbalized to their pets ( z = 4.40, p ≤ .01) significantly more often
than did the girls. But at 24 mo., the girls laughed ( Z = 3.43, p ≤ .01), held
( z = 2.86, p ≤ .01), followed ( z = 2.79, p ≤ .01), permitted continued
contact ( z = 4.00, p ≤ .01), and verbalized to their pets ( z = 4.25, p ≤ .01)
significantly more often than did the boys. Girls from 12 to 18 mo. pushed
their pets away ( z = 3.67, p ≤ .01) significantly more often than did the
boys. There were no significant sex differences in this rejecting behavior in
the 24- and 30-mo.-old groups.
There were significant differences based on the type of pet. Dogs initiated
contact with the infants significantly more often than did cats ( z = 16.00, 9
≤ .01). Dog owners showed more attachment behaviors ( z = 6.00, P .01), laughed
( z = 2.28, p ≤ .01), held their pets ( z = 2.00, P ≤ .01), and verbalized to
their pets ( z = 4.40, p ≤ .01) significantly more often than did cat owners.
There were no significant differences in sex, age, or pet ownership shown
toward the two mechanical animals. Although 21% of the dog owners interacted
slightly longer with the mechanical cat than wich the mechanical dog, and 26%
of the cat owners interacted slightly longer wich the mechanical dog than with
the mechanical cat, the remainder of the infants spent slightly more time with
the mechanical animal which was of the same species as their own live pet.
In addition to these over-all trends and results, there were developmental
differences. At 6 mo., there were no significant differences in the amount of
time spent with the live pet as compared with the mechanical animals, although
there was a trend for the infants to spend more time with the live pet than
with the mechanical dog ( t 4 8 = 1.99, fl ≤ . l o ) or the mechanical cat ( t
4 8 = 1.98, ≤ . l o ) . Other than the differences in sex and pet ownership
previously described, these 6-mo.-olds showed no significant differences in
attachment or in rejection behaviors directed toward the live pet, the
mechanical dog, or the mechanical cat.
At 12 mo., the infants displayed a significantly higher percentage of
attachment behaviors ( z = 6.00, p ≤ .01) to their live pet than to the
mechanical animals. Pet type also showed increased importance. Dogs were held (
z = 3.59, p ≤ .01), verbalized to ( z = 4.43, ≤ .01), and permitted continued
contact ( z = 2.83, p ≤ .01) significantly more often than were cats. However,
neither dog nor cat owners showed a significant preference for either of the
mechanical animals.
At 18 mo., girls showed a significantly higher percentage of attachment
behaviors ( z = 2.83, p ≤ .01) toward their live pets than did boys. Unlike the
younger groups in which the boys verbalized more to their pets, the 18- mo.-old
girls verbalized significantly more often ( z = 4.00, p ≤ .01) than did boys.
Dogs continued to receive a significantly higher percentage of attachment
behaviors ( z = 4.20, p ≤ .01) and also of pushing away, rejecting behaviors (
z = 3.00, p ≤ .01) than did cats. Over-all these 18-mo.-olds showed a
significantly higher percentage of attachment behaviors than either the
6-mo.-olds ( z = 4.60, p ≤ .01) or the 12-mo.-olds ( z = 2.98, p ≤ .01), but
there were no significant age differences in rejecting behaviors from 6 to 18
At 24 mo., girls showed a significantly higher percentage of attachment
behaviors toward their live pets ( z = 4.25, p ≤ .01) than did boys. Although
the boys followed their pets significantly more often ( z = 3.00, p ,011 than
the girls, the girls called their pets ("here kitty, doggie") significantly
more often ( z = 2.13, p ≤ .01) than did boys. 24-mo.-olds showed a higher
percentage of attachment behaviors than did the 18-mo.-olds, but this was not a
significant difference.
The 30-mo.-olds showed significantly more attachment behaviors ( z = 3.60, p ≤
.01) than did 24-mo.-olds, and the girls continued to show significantly more
attachment behaviors (z = 3.40, p ≤ .01) than did boys. Oniy one of the 50
toddlers pushed her dog away, but dogs continued to receive significantly more
smiles ( z = 4.25, p ≤ .01), more laughter ( z = 3.25, p .01), more
verbalization ( z = 3.00, p .01), and more holding ( z = 2.85, p ≤ .01) than
cats. There were no significant sex or pet ownership responses to the two
mechanical animals.
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The data support both hypotheses. The responses of infants and toddlers to
animate pets and inanimate toy animals ate progressively dissimilar for
children of 6 to 30 mo. of age. Older infants spent significantly more time
observing and interacting and showed significantly more attachment behaviors
toward live pets than toward mechanical animals. The time spent and the number
of attachment behaviors directed toward the mechanical animals did not change
for those between 12 and 30 mo. of age.
The data agree with Nelson's (1973) research in that the present study's
subjects who were 12- through 18-mo.-olds called or referred to their pet's
species name, while the 24- and 30-mo.-olds called or referred to their pet's
given name.
The data also agree with Schustack's (Nelson, 1973) comment that children can
interact more easily with pets which are usually the same size and on their
same space level. Ten of the 18-mo.-olds' parents repotted that their infants
showed increased interest in the pet when the child was able to toddle to the
pet and look into its face. Five other parents reported increased interest in
the pet when the child had reached 14 mo.
Kidd and Kidd (1985) reported that children from 3 co 13 yr. old showed a
significant preference for dogs over cats. The same preference was shown by the
12-, 18-, 24-, and 30-mo.-olds in the present study.
Statistical analysis indicated several sex differences. Although the 6- and
12-mo.-old boys showed significantly more attachment behaviors and verbalized
more to their pets, and there were no significant sex differences among the
18-mo.-olds, the 24- and 30-mo.-old girls showed significantly more attachment
behaviors and verbalized more to their pets. These shifts ate probably
explained by differences in activity levels between the sexes and differing
sex- role training. According to Maccoby and Jacklin (1974), boys are usually
reported as being more active than girls during the first year. This higher
activity level could explain the boys' greater number of attachment behaviors
and the greater babbling and verbalization among the year-old boys. Girls,
however, are socialized by parental reinforcement behaviors to talk more, so
that by 24 mo., they usually talk more than boys and, as the data show, talk
more to pets as well as to other people. The 6-, 12-, and 18-mo.-old girls
pushed their dogs away more often than did boys, although the two sexes were
equal at 24 and 30 mo. But this is also explainable by socialization behaviors.
Although mothers treat the two sexes more equitably (Lamb and Bornstein, 1987),
fathers tend to engage in more roughhousing with their boys than with their
girls. Having been habituated to strong physical stimulation, boys would
probably be more likely to tolerate the pet's licking, puslung, and knocking
them down than would girls who have not been accustomed to such stimuli. By 24
mo., of course, both sexes have achieved some ability in managing the pet, have
become accustomed to the pet's behaviors, and move well enough to remove
themselves from the pets if they so desire.
Analysis of the data showed a significant preference for dogs over cats in the
12- through 30-mo.-olds, probably because dogs approach babies more often than
d o cats, and permit more contact-comfort with infants and toddlers (Harlow and
Harlow, 1966; Bowlby, 1969), moving easily out of reach if they are frightened
or annoyed by the infant.
Of the many possible reasons why very young children might strongly prefer live
pets to animated toy animals, tactual qualities, sound, novelty, and movement
were considered. Touch did not appear to be significant because a large variety
of coat textures were noted among the live pets to which the infants were
attached. Further, the mechanical dog had a rather stiff, curly coar and a very
firm underbody, and the cat had a long, silky coat and a very soft, pillowy
underbody, but the babies did not react differently to the "feel" of each of
the mechanical animals.
Sound did not appear to be of great importance either. The mechanical dog
"barked" and the cat "purred" and "meowed". It is possible, of course, that the
noises produced by the toy animals may have sounded as artificial to the
infants as they did to the adults, but the noises did not seem to be the chief
attraction to the infant subjects.
The imporrance of novelty is difficult to assess because the literature reports
some sharp disagreement among the prominent researchers as to whether infants
prefer the novel or the familiar (Lamb and Bornstein, 1987). In the present
research, the infants preferred the familiar family pet to the novelty of the
toy mechanical animal. Possibly the infant felt more secure in the presence of
the family pet and the parent as against the presence of the stranger and the
strange toy animals.
Movement may have been the chief reason for the infants' preference for the
live pet. The toy dog moved its head, legs, and tail, and the cat's body was
"moved" though manipulation by the observer, the parent, and the child. The
movement of both the live Fet and the mechanical animals was directed toward
the infant, but there were obvious differences in the quality of movement. The
mechanical dog had a repetitive sequence of movement in contrast to the ad lib.
movement of the live pet. And the "mechanical" cat was obviously moved by the
researcher and child. The infants may have been aware of these differences.
Also, only the live pets could actually respond and interact with the babies,
while the mechanical pets could be moved only toward the infants and the
infants could respond only to the mechanical action. While it is probable that
any type of movement attracts infants' attention, only reciprocal interaction
sustains that attention. Further, because reciprocal interaction is the basis
of attachment in parent-child relationships (Bowlby, 1969; Ainsworth, et al.,
1978), the same may well be true in child-pet relationships.
Because this study's sample was limited by circumstantial realities primarily
to middle-class surburban, Caucasian babies from intact families, the results
cannot be extrapolated or generalized to urban or minority group babies, to
babies from different cultures, or to babies from single-parent homes.
Additional research is needed to extend and clarify the nature of infants' and
toddlers' reactions to live pets. Too, the influence of parental attitudes
toward pets on infants' and children's reactions needs further study. Because,
by the first year of life, infants and toddlers do respond differently to live
pets and stuffed toy animals, further in-depth research on babies is extremely
important to a full understanding of the human/companion animal bond.
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AINSWORTH, M. D. S., BLEHAR, M. C , WATERS, E. J., and WALL, S. (1978) Patterns
of attachment: a psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, NJ:
Erl- baum.
<p class="noindent">
BECK, A. M., and KATCHER, A. H. (1983) Between pets and people. New York: Put-
<p class="noindent">
BOWLBY, J. (1969) Attachment. New York: Basic Books.
<p class="noindent">
EBY, S. hl. (1985) Babies and animals. Parents, GO, 89-91.
<p class="noindent">
FILIATRE, J. C., MILLOT, J. L., and MONTAGNER, H. (1985) New findings on
communication behavior between the young child and his pet dog. In The
human-pet relationship: Proceedings of the International Symposium on the
Occasion of the 80th Birthday of Nobel Prize Winner Prof. DDr . Konrad Lorenz.
Vienna: Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on the Human-Pet Relationship.
Pp. 50-57.
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HARLOW. H . F., and HARLOW, M. (1966) Learning to love. American Scientist,
54, 244-272.
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KIDD, A. H., and Kmo, R. M. (1985) Children's attitudes toward their pets.
Psychological Repofts, 5 7 , 1 5 - 3 1 .
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LAMB, M. E., and BORNSTEIN, M. H. (1987) Development in infancy. New York:
Random House.
<p class="noindent">
LEVINSON, B. M. (1972) Pets and human development. Springfield, IL: Thomas.
<p class="noindent">
MACCOBY, E. E. and JACKLIN, C. H. (1974) The psychology of sex differences.
Stan- ford, CA: Stanford Univer. Press.
<p class="noindent">
NELSON, K. (1973) Structure and strategy in learning to talk. Society for
Research in Child Development Monographs, 38 (1-Z), No. 149.
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