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Animal Abuse, Family Violence, and Child Wellbeing: A Review

Abstract

Animal abuse and family violence appear to be “linked” and tend to co-occur in the same households. Companion animals are often regarded as family members, if not by the abuser, then by others within the family. Consequently, in families where any given form of violence exists, animal abuse is also more likely to exist. This paper examines animal abuse in the context of abusive home environments, and the relationship between an abusive home in childhood and the range of behavioral problems that may extend into adulthood. Existing investigations are reviewed with reference to prevalence, epidemiology, and child development theory. It appears that holistic interventions to counter abusive home environments may represent the most effective way to break the association between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence, by addressing the shared situational characteristics common to a range of violent behaviors.

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Notes

  1. Given the variety of different definitions and conceptualizations of cruelty and abuse found in the literature under review, the current paper uses the terms ‘abuse’ and ‘cruelty’ interchangeably. This convention was adopted in order to streamline the review, given that a full discussion of the reasons postulated for drawing conceptual distinction between ‘cruelty’ and ‘abuse’ was beyond the scope of the present study.

  2. For example, some argue that ‘cruelty’ differs from ‘abuse’ because cruelty implies the deliberate infliction of unnecessary pain and suffering, whereas abuse does not necessarily suggest deliberate action.

  3. The author wishes to thank Associate Professor Eleonora Gullone for kindly supplying unpublished material.

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McPhedran, S. Animal Abuse, Family Violence, and Child Wellbeing: A Review. J Fam Viol 24, 41–52 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-008-9206-3

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Keywords

  • Animal abuse
  • Family violence