Background: In developed nations, pet ownership is common within families. Both physical and psychological health benefits may result from owning a pet during childhood and adolescence. However, it is difficult to determine whether these benefits are due to pet ownership directly or to factors linked to both pet ownership and health. Previous research found associations between a range of socio-demographic factors and pet ownership in seven-year-old children from a UK cohort. The current study extends this research to adolescence, considering that these factors may be important to consider in future Human-Animal Interaction (HAI) research across childhood. Results: The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) collected pet ownership data prospectively via maternal reports from gestation up to age 10 years old and via self-report retrospectively at age 18 for ages 11 (n = 3063) to 18 years old (n = 3098) on cats, dogs, rabbits, rodents, birds, fish, tortoise/turtles and horses. The dataset also contains a wide range of potential confounders, including demographic and socio-economic variables. The ownership of all pet types peaked at age 11 (80%) and then decreased during adolescence, with the exclusion of cats which remained constant (around 30%), and dogs which increased through 11-18 years (26-37%). Logistic regression was used to build multivariable models for ownership of each pet type at age 13 years, and the factors identified in these models were compared to previously published data for 7 year-olds in the same cohort. There was some consistency with predictors reported at age 7. Generally sex, birth order, maternal age, maternal education, number of people in the household, house type, and concurrent ownership of other pets were associated with pet ownership at both 7 and 13 years (the direction of association varied according to pet type). Factors that were no longer associated with adolescent pet ownership included child ethnicity, paternal education, and parental social class. Conclusions: A number of socio-demographic factors are associated with pet ownership in childhood and adolescence and they differ according to the type of pet, and age of child. These factors are potential confounders that must be considered in future HAI studies.
- Pet ownership