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Household pets and depression among urban adolescents Nevin-Haas, Mary M.


This study was designed to describe the prevalence of depression among a group of adolescents and examine the relationships between depression and presence of pets in the home, primary ownership of pets and perceived degree of attachment to the pets by the subjects. The coping conceptual framework of Folkman and Lazarus (1988) provided the structure for the study. Subjects were 401 grade nine males and females attending three Vancouver and three Victoria secondary schools. The instruments utilized to gather the data were the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) (Radloff, 1977) and the Adolescent and Pet Characteristics Questionnaire, developed by the researcher. The subjects completed the instruments anonymously in classroom settings. Among the grade nine students sampled, 48.4% demonstrated no depressive symptoms, 41.4% demonstrated what were classified as mild symptoms of depression, 8.7% demonstrated moderate symptoms of depression, and 1.5% of those sampled indicated severe depressive symptoms. Female adolescents were significantly more depressed than their male counterparts with mean depression scores being 18.7 and 15.1, respectively. Those subjects with pets in the home were significantly less depressed than their counterparts without household pets. There was no relationship between gender and pet ownership combined with level of depression. An analysis of primary pet ownership indicated that subjects who owned their own pets were significantly more depressed on a whole than those in homes where the pet was owned by the entire family. Perceived degree of attachment to the household pet was not related to depression among the subjects. Conclusions are drawn from the findings and implications for nursing practice and research are discussed.

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