A Mixed-Methods Evaluation of the Child-Dog Relationship in Healthy Weight and Overweight/Obese Children.
obesity is a growing public health concern necessitating comprehensive treatment. The
development of effective and sustainable interventions to treat obesity and the mental
health effects of childhood obesity remain both a priority and a challenge. Previous
studies show that dogs may provide social support in overweight adults, but the
child-dog relationship is not as well ... read moreunderstood. The goal of this study was to improve
knowledge of the child-dog relationship among children to inform future childhood
obesity interventions including dogs. A sequential mixed-methods approach utilized a
cross-sectional survey study to test the hypothesis that overweight children are more
attached to their pet dogs and have less perceived social support compared to healthy
weight children, and also utilized semi-structured interviews in an exploratory method
to better understand the child-dog relationship and engage stakeholders of potential
future interventions. Children aged 8-13 with a dog in the household were surveyed on
dog attachment (Pet Relationship Scale), perceived social support (Child and Adolescent
Social Support Scale), and had height and weight measurements taken. A parent
demographic survey was also conducted. Semi-structured interviews with child-parent
dyads further investigated the child-dog relationship and perceptions about potential
child-dog activity programs. The results of the survey showed that overweight/obese
children (≥ 85th body mass index percentile) had greater attachment to their dog
(p=0.039) and less perceived social support (p=0.016) compared to healthy weight
children. Semi-structured interviews revealed that child-parent dyads were positive and
enthusiastic about child-dog physical activity programs. Perceived barriers for programs
included safety concerns in child-dog and dog-dog interactions. Perceived facilitators
for programs included components that strengthen the child-dog bond, such as the
addition of education, behavior training, or agility components. In conclusion,
overweight/obesity in children was associated with greater dog attachment and less
perceived social support, supporting the concept that pet dogs play a different role in
overweight/obese children's social support networks. Children and parent/legal guardians
support child-dog activity programs that are safe and enrich the child-dog relationship.
Future studies are warranted to evaluate the impact of including pet dogs as additional
mental health support in novel childhood obesity
Thesis (M.S.)--Tufts University, 2016.
Submitted to the Dept. of Clinical & Translational Science.
Advisor: Farzad Noubary.
Committee: Lisa Freeman, Jennifer Sacheck, and Amy LeClair.
Keyword: Health sciences.read less