Sure, siblings are important and play a big role in determining a child's future personality traits. But it turns out, there's one family relationship that may be even more important for kids: The one they have with their pet.
Think about it: Pets are loyal. They love us unconditionally. They’re always there. They support us when we're sad, and make the silly times even more fun. And once we considered all the adult pet-lovers we know, it wasn't too surprising to learn that new research has found that children tend to get on better with their pets than with their own (human) siblings.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge found that not only do kids get more satisfaction from relationships with their pets, but that household animals also have a positive impact on children’s social skills and emotional well-being.
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The really interesting thing? Cat, dog, parakeet, guinea pig--in general, it didn't matter: The study looked at 12-year-olds from 77 households with one or more pets of any species and more than one child at home, and all children in the study reported having stronger relationships with their pets relative to their siblings.
Kids also reported telling their pets plenty of secrets.
"Even though pets may not fully understand or respond verbally, the level of disclosure to pets was no less than to siblings," says Matt Cassells from the university’s Department of Psychiatry. "The fact that pets cannot understand or talk back may even be a benefit as it means they are completely non-judgmental."
And while all types of pets may have given the kids in the study the same positive benefits, there was one animal that stood out from the pack: Children who lived with dogs had particularly low levels of conflict and a greater sense of satisfaction compared to others.
Something to consider next time your kids or grandkids ask, "Can we please get a dog?"