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Children's attitudes towards animal cruelty: Exploration of predictors and socio-demographic variations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Roxanne Hawkins
  • Scottish SPCA Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animalss
  • Joanne Williams

Related Edinburgh Organisations

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology, Crime and Law
Early online date14 Aug 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Aug 2019


Assessing the risk for animal cruelty is imperative, yet understudied and problematic due to the sensitivity of the topic. Early prevention is critical, yet very little research examines cruelty when it first appears in childhood. The aim of this study was to explore children’s attitudes towards types of animal cruelty, to investigate potential demographic differences, and to examine potential associations between acceptance of cruelty and cognitive and affective factors that place children ‘at-risk’ for cruelty perpetration. Questionnaire data was collected from 1,127 children in schools. The results indicate that cruelty attitudes are predicted by some demographic variables such as urban living, being male, younger age and not having pets, but depend on the type of animal cruelty. Acceptance of cruelty predicted low compassion and low reported humane behaviour towards animals. Acceptance of cruelty was predicted by negative attitudes towards animals, lower beliefs in animal minds and low attachment to pets, signifying the importance of targeting such variables in future prevention programmes. This study is an original contribution to research into childhood animal cruelty in the general population, with implications for designing and implementing early prevention programmes that tackle problematic attitudes to cruelty.

    Research areas

  • animal cruelty, animal abuse, attitudes, children, demographics

ID: 58258929