While the reasons for keeping a pet may be similar among adults and college students, the lifestyles differences between the two may provide clues as to why students rely on their pets more often, Staats said.
Many people in their late twenties to mid-forties have established circles of friends. Adults usually live in areas with friends, colleagues, and family nearby, making their lives more stable than those beginning to build their lives. Many more adults are married or have started raising a family, and have years of experience learning how to cope with difficult situations.
Many first and second-year students, however, are in the beginning stages of building a new network of friends. College students living far from home may find it harder to deal with difficult situations because they are thrown into a new environment and expected to find their way, often for the first time in their lives.
As a result, many students may find themselves feeling isolated and withdrawn from their environment.
"Many students said that their pets fulfill a significant role that is missing in their lives. The pets are not a substitute for human social interaction and support, but they do provide important interaction for these kids who might otherwise feel isolated from their current environment," Staats said.
"I wouldn't advise everyone to go out and buy a puppy. But I think this research clearly shows that many students can benefit both psychologically and socially from living with an animal companion."
Staats conducted the study with undergraduate psychology students Heidi Wallace and Tara Anderson.
|Contact: Sara Staats|
Ohio State University