Pets as protagonists

For many years, the study of psychology has investigated psychological function and behavior as indicators for mental diseases. However, for many psychologists and researchers it seems incomprehensible to understand how when researching the well-being and mental health of individuals the object of study be distress instead of well-being, which is the main area of study of the emerging model of Positive Psychology.

The studies made by scientists since the 70’s using animals and pets, not as objects of study, but as the protagonists in providing benefits for their caretakers, appear to be much more radical.

Pet’s caretakers

It is necessary to understand what pet’s caretakers feel and know the benefits it brings, however for science this is not enough. It is necessary to prove using the scientific method the benefits and with what magnitude they affect the psychological and physical well-being of their caretakers. In order to achieve this, a number of experimental and correlational studies have been made, mainly in the United States, England and Australia and as Haedey noted in 1998, preschoolers that cared for pets had higher levels in psychomotor development, higher scores in social abilities and were perceived by their parents as much more tolerant and expressive, when compared to children that did not have pets.

Advantages for pet owners

Another study conducted by the author mentioned, proved that children with pets had higher levels of empathy and positive attitudes when they spent a large amount of time playing with pets no matter the species. These studies caught the attention of many researchers around the world and it is possible to find in the bibliography, studies from the year 1990 made with pet’s caretakers of various ages that prove to be a decrease in problems to begin and maintain sleep, cardiac risk, doctor visits and a rise in response to any kind of treatment.

Pets as therapists

Friedmann, in 2009 began to measure the benefits of people who had never had a pet and decided to care for one. After a period of 8-10 months the subjects increased their levels of security, self-esteem, satisfaction with life, and improved their relationship with their spouse as well as their psychological well-being. The same study was replicated in Australia and found that therapy for addiction that was initiated in the company of a pet; allowed patients to increase by 70% their therapy goals, which caused a protective factor against relapses. It is also possible to understand that the tendency to have a pet in the first stages of development allow potentiating resilience, positive emotions, comprehension of the environment, communication and tolerance against adversity as well as, the decrease in the levels of stress, frustration, aggression, crying and tantrums.

Other advantages

All of this impacting data that has been demonstrated by different researches of professional esteem allow comprehending and feeling the need to have a pet, of any species, being that there are many more benefits of having one than those mentioned in this document. Finally, it is up to the reader to make the decision to increase their social, physical and psychological well-being, as well as their children’s and their own happiness, making the clarification that the scientific method has allowed the credibility and veracity of the multiple benefits for individuals, couples and families.

About The Author: Dr. Andrés Cabezas Corcione is a Clinical Psychologist and a practicing award winning professor at 7 universities in Chile. He founded the Chilean Association of Positive Psychology and is the creator and general editor of the Latin American Journal of Positive Psychology PsyCap. He is dedicated to spreading positive psychology in Latin America and the Caribbean. www.acpp.cl   www.psycap.cl  www.relappa.com

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