Children’s attitudes towards animal cruelty

Roxanne D. Hawkins, Joanne M. Williams

Research output: Contribution to conferencePresentation


Understanding why some children harm animals, and whether prevention is possible is imperative, yet surprisingly understudied. The lack of
established and psychometrically sound measures that assess childhood animal cruelty is impeding the advancement of research on this topic. New
child-friendly measures are needed to assess risk for cruelty and evaluate cruelty prevention programmes. This study describes the development of
a new measure, Children’s Attitudes towards Animal Cruelty (CAAC). This study investigates associations between CAAC, socio-demographics, and
variables underlying child-animal relationships, as well as assessing the validity of CAAC within an empirical quantitative study.

A questionnaire-based survey, comprising of a variety of measures relating to child-animal relationships including the new CAAC measure, was
administered to primary school children during class time by school teachers. A total of 1,217 (51% boys, 49% girls) children aged 6-13 years from 24 schools across Scotland participated.

Cronbach’s alpha was 0.7. Factor analysis resulted in a three-factor solution. The three principle components were intentional animal cruelty
(explaining 24.9% of the variance), unintentional animal cruelty (17.6% of the variance) and animal neglect (16.6% of the variance). The results
indicate that children’s attitudes towards animal cruelty are predicted by some demographic variables including urban living, being male, younger
age and not having pets, but attitudes differ depending on the type of animal cruelty. Negative attitudes, F(1,994)=9.6, p=.002, R2=.01), and lower belief in animal mind, F(1,1080)=20.2, p=.000, R2=.02), significantly predicted higher acceptance of animal cruelty. Higher acceptance of animal
cruelty significantly predicted lower scores for attachment to pets, F(1,1113)=24.3, p=.000, R2=.021), compassion, F(1,1077)=14, p=.000, R
2=.013), and humane behaviour, F(1,1093)=7.2, p=.006, R2=.007). Children were more accepting of unintentional animal cruelty.

The study concludes that CAAC is a coherent and psychometrically sound measure and confirms its utility in future studies to further scientific
understanding of childhood animal cruelty. This measure allows for the assessment of children’s acceptance of different types of cruelty, addressing the limitations of previous research focusing on intentional acts in adult populations. This study has implications for the development and
evaluation of educational interventions designed to prevent animal cruelty and neglect in the general child population.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes
Event27th Annual Conference of the International Society for Anthrozoology: Animals in Our Lives: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Human-Animal Interactions - Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 2 Jul 20185 Jul 2018 (Conference website.)


Conference27th Annual Conference of the International Society for Anthrozoology
Abbreviated titleISAZ 2018
Internet address


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