Exploring Human–Companion Animal Interaction in Families of Children with Autism

Abstract

The study goal was to explore companion animal (CA) ownership in families of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including parents’ beliefs about benefits and burdens of CAs, as well as parent stress. Participants (N = 764) completed online survey instruments anonymously. Findings revealed that parents with lower incomes perceived more benefits of CAs and their children were more strongly bonded with their CAs. Parents owning both a dog and cat perceived more benefits than those with only a dog or cat. Dog owners perceived more benefits than cat owners. Parents who perceived their CAs as providing more benefits had less stress. Provider implications are to consider recommending CAs to families of children with ASD for family benefits including lower parental stress.

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Acknowledgments

Funding for this study was provided by Nestlé Purina Grant # 00059131. We would like to acknowledge the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) Research Database at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, MD for assistance with recruitment. We would like to thank Alison R. Marvin, PhD for your assistance in reviewing the survey and with subject recruitment. We would also like to thank the parents for their time and willingness to participate in the study.

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This study was developed and the manuscript drafted by GKC and RAJ. GKC directed the study and designed the protocol. TCB and EMR undertook data collection. GKC, RAJ and ZW analyzed the data. All authors read, provided feedback and approved the final manuscript prior to its submission for publication.

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Correspondence to Gretchen K. Carlisle.

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Carlisle, G.K., Johnson, R.A., Wang, Z. et al. Exploring Human–Companion Animal Interaction in Families of Children with Autism. J Autism Dev Disord 50, 2793–2805 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-020-04390-x

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Keywords

  • Autism
  • Companion animals
  • Autistic children
  • Parent stress