Psychological risk factors for childhood nonhuman animal cruelty: A systematic review

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Despite growing research interest in human-animal relationships, little is known about children’s relationships with animals, especially childhood cruelty to animals and the possible causes of this behaviour. Investigating potential risks of cruel behaviour towards animals has great implications for animal welfare and child wellbeing, as well as being vital for designing and implementing successful interventions. The purpose of this review was to investigate the potential psychological and behavioural predictors of childhood cruelty to animals. The aim was to assemble, synthesise and evaluate existing empirical research and highlight areas in need of further study. The systematic review was conducted by obtaining articles from eighteen electronic databases covering a wide range of disciplines, reflecting the diversity of animal cruelty research. The review reveals a myriad of psychological and behavioural difficulties related to childhood animal cruelty, highlighting the extent to which this area is neglected in psychological research. Through the identification of factors that ‘at risk’ children have in common, organisations such as animal welfare charities can be better equipped to intervene and promote empathy and compassionate behaviour toward animals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-312
JournalSociety & Animals: Journal of Human-Animal Studies
Issue number3
Early online date1 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • animal cruelty
  • childhood
  • behavioural disorders
  • psychological disorders


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