A study from researchers at the University of Florida suggests that pet dogs may help children cope with stress by providing them with social support.
The study, published in the journal Social Development, examined the effects of family pets on children during stressful tasks. Participating children were asked to complete a public speaking task and a mental math test, both of which have been demonstrated to simulate stressful events children might experience in real life. All of the participants had pet dogs, though only some of them had their dogs present during the tasks. Children whose dogs were present during the stressful tasks exhibited lower levels of cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.
“Our research shows that having a pet dog present when a child is undergoing a stressful experience lowers how much children feel stressed out. Children who had their pet dog with them reported feeling less stressed compared to having a parent for social support or having no social support.”
— Darlene Kertes, Assistant Professor, Psychology, University of Florida
The results of the study are consistent with those found in similar studies of both children and adults.