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It's official: we prefer our pets to our siblings

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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They say that dogs are a man’s best friend – and it appears they play the same role in the lives of children as well.

In what is perhaps the least surprising news ever, a new study has confirmed that children adore their pets, to the extent that they actually prefer them to their siblings. 

The study, based on 77 12-year-olds in the UK, found that pets not only made children happier than their siblings, but that they also got on with them better as well.

Touchingly, girls in particular were also more likely to tell their secrets to their pets than their siblings, and they reported higher levels of companionship with their pets than boys.

Girls told more secrets to their pets than boys

Girls told more secrets to their pets than boys

Speaking about the findings, Matt Cassells, one of the researchers, said in a statement, “Anyone who has loved a childhood pet knows that we turn to them for companionship and disclosure, just like relationships between people.”



Cassells also indicated he wasn’t surprised by the finding that we might confide in our pets more than our siblings.

“Even though pets may not fully understand or respond verbally, the level of disclosure to pets was no less than to siblings,” he added.

“The fact that pets cannot understand or talk back may even be a benefit as it means they are completely non-judgmental.”

Better than a brother or sister...?

Better than a brother or sister...?

And the results of the study could have wider implications for how children and teenagers learn to make friends.

“Evidence continues to grow showing that pets have positive benefits on human health and community cohesion,” said Dr Nancy Gee, another researcher working on the study.

“The social support that adolescents receive from pets may well support psychological well-being later in life but there is still more to learn about the long term impact of pets on children’s development.”

You can read the full study, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, here.

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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Features Editor at Stylist

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