Applied Developmental Science
Sandra B. Barker, Christine M. Schubert, Randolph T. Barker, Sally I-Chun Kuo, Kenneth S. Kendler & Danielle M. Dick (2018). The relationship between pet ownership, social support, and internalizing symptoms in students from the first to fourth year of college, Applied Developmental Science, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2018.1476148
Internalizing symptoms are prevalent in students as they enter and complete college. Considering research suggesting mental health benefits of pet ownership, this study explores the relationship between pet ownership, social support (SS), and internalizing symptoms (IS) in a cohort of students across their 4-year college experience. With no differences at college entry, students growing up with pets had greater IS through the fourth year, and greater SS through the third year, than those without pets. Currently living with a pet, gender, SS and personality predicted IS in the fourth year. Females experiencing higher IS in their first year are more likely to live with pets in their fourth year, and fourth year females living with pets or greatly missing absent pets have higher IS than females without pets or missing pets less. Findings suggest a unique relationship between IS in female students and their pet relationships not seen in males.