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Anthrozoos. 2013;26(3). doi: 10.2752/175303713X13697429463835.

Effects of Animal-Assisted Activities with Guinea Pigs in the Primary School Classroom.

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1
The University of Queensland, School of Psychology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Abstract

This study investigated the effects of a classroom-based animal-assisted activities (AAA) program with guinea pigs on the social functioning of primary school children. We hypothesized that participants in the experimental condition (n = 64), compared with a waitlist control group (n = 64), would demonstrate improvements in social functioning following the program. Parents and teachers used the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS) to evaluate the social skills and problem behaviors of 128 participating children (age range = 4.8 to 12.7 years) before and after an 8-week period. Teachers also rated academic competence at both time points. Children who participated in the AAA program demonstrated significantly greater improvements in social functioning than their control group peers, as defined by greater increases in social skills (teacher SSRS) and decreases in problem behaviors (parent and teacher SSRS). There were no significant differences between the groups in academic competence. AAA participants demonstrated significant increases in social skills and decreases in problem behaviors from pre- to post-program on the teacher version of the SSRS. Control group participants did not show significant changes on these measures. These findings suggest that an AAA program with guinea pigs may be a feasible addition to the primary school classroom in order to improve social functioning. Further component analysis will be necessary to determine whether the animal is the active ingredient in AAA programs of this nature.

KEYWORDS:

animal-assisted intervention; children; classroom pets; guinea pigs; social functioning

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