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Research Article

Companion Animals and Adolescent Stress and Adaptive Coping During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Published online: 11 Feb 2022

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant social disruptions for youth caused by lockdowns, school closures, and a lack of in-person social interactions. Companion animals are prevalent in United States households and may provide a source of emotional support and motivation for youth to engage in adaptive coping behaviors during social challenges. The goals of this study were to assess if dog owners, non-dog pet owners, and non-pet owners differed in stress levels, positive affect, and use of adaptive coping strategies such as increased time outdoors, regular walking, and healthy behaviors. This study used data collected during the COVID-19 pandemic from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive DevelopmentSM (ABCD) Study, a large, nationally representative dataset of American youth. In a cross-sectional sample of 6,069 adolescents, there were significant, but small, relationships between owning a non-dog pet and lower levels of positive affect, and both dog owners and non-dog pet owners reported higher perceived stress compared with non-pet owners. Dog ownership was associated with higher odds of using healthy coping strategies compared with non-pet owners, but this relationship was not significant when controlling for demographic variables. Dog owners reported higher odds of having a walking routine and spending time outdoors compared with non-pet owners. Overall, the results suggest no buffering effect of pet ownership on youth mental wellbeing, but dog ownership is associated with some healthy coping behaviors linked to walking.

Data Availability Statement

Data used in the preparation of this article were obtained from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive DevelopmentSM (ABCD) Study (https://abcdstudy.org), held in the NIMH Data Archive (NDA). The ABCD data repository grows and changes over time. The ABCD data used in this report came ABCD COVID Rapid Response Research (RRR) Survey First data release (https://doi.org/10.15154/1520584) and the Annual Curated Release 3.0 (https://doi.org/10.15154/1519007).

Disclosure Statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

Additional information

Funding

The analyses in this study were funded by the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), grant #HAB009-01. Data used in the preparation of this article were obtained from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive DevelopmentSM (ABCD) Study (https://abcdstudy.org), held in the NIMH Data Archive (NDA). The ABCD Study® is supported by the National Institutes of Health and additional federal partners under award numbers U01DA041048, U01DA050989, U01DA051016, U01DA041022, U01DA051018, U01DA051037, U01DA050987, U01DA041174, U01DA041106, U01DA041117, U01DA041028, U01DA041134, U01DA050988, U01DA051039, U01DA041156, U01DA041025, U01DA041120, U01DA051038, U01DA041148, U01DA041093, U01DA041089, U24DA041123, U24DA041147. A full list of supporters is available at https://abcdstudy.org/federal-partners.html. A listing of participating sites and a complete listing of the study investigators can be found at https://abcdstudy.org/consortium_members/. ABCD consortium investigators designed and implemented the study and/or provided data but did not necessarily participate in the analysis or writing of this report. This manuscript reflects the views of the authors and may not reflect the opinions or views of the NIH or ABCD consortium investigators. Additional support for this work was made possible from supplements to U24DA041123 and U24DA041147, the National Science Foundation (NSF 2028680), and Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development Inc.

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