Animal and Child Maltreatment
A research project of the Department of Sociology.
This study investigates patterns and dynamics of animal ownership and attitudes towards animals in different groups of families, with specific reference to exploring child maltreatment and animal cruelty. Although there is significant interest in the link between child maltreatment and animal cruelty, there has been no previous empirical research in this area in the UK. This study addresses this issue in order to broaden and strengthen systems for the protection of children by identifying risk factors for children's welfare relating to animal treatment in the home. Mirroring the study design of research conducted in the USA, we plan to conduct a small scale qualitative investigation of the views of up to 60 young people (aged 16-21), 60 adults, including two different groups of about 40 students.
This study will focus on an exploration of the patterns and dynamics of pet ownership, and attitudes towards animals in different groups of families. The overall aim will be to broaden and strengthen systems for the protection of children by identifying particular risk factors for children's welfare relating to animal treatment in the home. Questions to be addressed through the research include:
- In what circumstances does pet ownership constitute a risk or protective factor for children in families?
- Are parents who receive social care services for child welfare issues more likely to report having experiences of animal harm/abuse? Are they more likely themselves to have harmed animals?
- Is there a higher rate of pet ownership in families who are subject to social care intervention than in families without such intervention?
- Is the nature of pet ownership, including type and number of animals owned, attitudes towards pets and treatment of animals, different between families with and without social care intervention?
- To what extent do the roles of pets vary between different families?
- Are there differences in the reported experiences of adults in families where animals are harmed and come to the attention of RSPCA?
Interviews and questionnaires
The project is due to be completed by January 2005.