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Prev Med Rep. 2017 Apr 26;6:352-354. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2017.04.014. eCollection 2017 Jun.

Dog attachment and perceived social support in overweight/obese and healthy weight children.

Author information

1
Department of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, North Grafton, MA, USA.
2
Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA.
3
The Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA.
4
Tufts Clinical and Translational Institute, Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA.
5
Sustainability Institute, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, USA.

Abstract

The development of effective and sustainable interventions to treat childhood obesity remains both a priority and a challenge. Previous studies support that dogs provide social support in overweight adults in obesity interventions, but the child-dog relationship is not as well understood. The goal of the study was to examine the child-dog relationship among children to inform novel childhood obesity interventions including dogs. A cross-sectional study was conducted in the Living Laboratory® at the Museum of Science, Boston in 2015. Children aged 8-13, with a dog in the household, answered surveys on pet attachment (Pet Relationship Scale), perceived social support from parents and close friends (Child and Adolescent Social Support Scale), and had a height and weight measurement taken for calculation of body mass index percentile. Overweight and obese children (≥ 85th body mass index percentile) had greater mean attachment score to their dog and less mean perceived social support from their parents and friends combined compared to healthy weight children (73.1 ± 5.6 vs. 68.5 ± 7.2, p = 0.037; 110.5 ± 13.5 vs. 122.9 ± 14.8, p = 0.015, respectively; n = 43). In conclusions, children who are overweight/obese report greater mean dog attachment and lower mean perceived social support, supporting the concept that pet dogs are considered part of overweight/obese children's social support networks. Future studies are warranted to evaluate the impact of including pet dogs as additional health support in child obesity interventions.

KEYWORDS:

Dogs; Pediatric obesity; Social support

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