Children’s attitudes towards animal cruelty: explorations of predictors and socio-demographic variations

Roxanne D. Hawkins, Joanne M. Williams

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    15 Citations (Scopus)
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    Assessing the risk for animal cruelty is imperative, yet understudied and problematic due to the sensitivity of the topic. Early prevention is critical, yet very little research examines cruelty when it first appears in childhood. The aim of this study was to explore children’s attitudes
    towards types of animal cruelty, to investigate potential demographic differences, and to examine potential associations between acceptance of cruelty and cognitive and affective factors that place children ‘at-risk’ for cruelty perpetration. Questionnaire data was collected
    from 1,127 children in schools. The results indicate that cruelty attitudes are predicted by some demographic variables such as urban living, being male, younger age and not having pets, but depend on the type of animal cruelty. Acceptance of cruelty predicted low compassion and low reported humane behaviour towards animals. Acceptance of cruelty was predicted by negative
    attitudes towards animals, lower beliefs in animal minds and low attachment to pets, signifying the importance of targeting such variables in future prevention programmes. This study is an original contribution to research into childhood animal cruelty in the general population, with implications for designing and implementing early prevention programmes that tackle
    problematic attitudes to cruelty.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)226-247
    Number of pages22
    JournalPsychology, Crime and Law
    Issue number3
    Early online date14 Aug 2019
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Aug 2019


    • Animal cruelty
    • Animal abuse
    • Attitudes
    • Children
    • Demographics


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