The Power of Pets: How Animals Affect Family Relationships


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Virginia Tech


This study was designed to explore the importance a pet can have on someone's life, including ways a pet affects the relationships an individual has with other family members. This study assessed how pets can be influential in people's lives, especially with regard to the cultivation of family relationships and the development and maintenance of emotional stability. The opinions of pet owners were reviewed with regard to whether they felt their pets loved them and considered a family member. Also evaluated was how a relationship with one's pet might have been similar to any other relationship within one's family, along with the extent one's pet added harmony or discomfort to family relationships.The following research questions guided this exploratory and qualitative study: (a) In what ways can a pet influence a person's life regarding family relationships? (b) In what ways can a pet replace or act as a beneficial substitute for other interpersonal and significant relationships? Specific attention was paid to how pets affect individuals in their family and various relationships between the family members, including the different roles the pet plays within family circumstances.An open-ended, 12-question survey was distributed to six undergraduate classes, two at Radford University and four at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Individuals identified different pets in their lives, and in some cases, described several positive attributes about their pets in the context of a personal anecdote about their pets and certain family relationships.The results of this study showed that pets are an important aspect to many families, and in several cases represent another "family member," or another "sister or brother." Pets often serve as a relief of distress for families by listening to verbal behavior, providing a best friend, encouraging family bonding, and acting as a protector.



The Power of Pets