Children and animals can have a great impact on each other’s lives, yet little is known about the underpinnings of these relationships. Children’s interactions with animals may be influenced by their belief in animal minds, that animals are sentient and experience thoughts and feelings. This study introduces a newly developed measure of children’s beliefs about animal minds (Child-BAM) and investigates associations between it and factors relating to positive and negative interactions with animals. Using a questionnaire-based survey of over 1,000 6- to 13-year-olds in the UK, the results show that Child-BAM was associated with higher attachment to pets (p < 0.001), compassion (p < 0.001), humane (p < 0.001) and caring behavior (p < 0.001) toward animals, emotional attachment to animals (p = 0.003), and positive attitudes toward animals (p < 0.001). Child-BAM was also associated with less acceptance of intentional animal cruelty (p = 0.001), unintentional animal cruelty (p = 0.007), and animal neglect (p = 0.01). There was a significant difference in Child-BAM between children with pets (p = 0.013), children who had a pet of their own (p = 0.016), and age group (p < 0.001). This study enhances our understanding of the psychological underpinnings of child–animal relationships and highlights the implications for animal welfare education and for preventing childhood animal cruelty.
- animal emotion
- animal welfare
- beliefs about animal mind
- preventing animal cruelty
Hawkins, R. D., & Williams, J. M. (2016). Children’s beliefs about animal minds (Child-BAM): associations with positive and negative child–animal interactions. Anthrozoös, 29(3), 503-519. https://doi.org/10.1080/08927936.2016.1189749