Are stronger bonds better? Examining the relationship between the human–animal bond and human social support, and its impact on resilience

Lian Hill, Helen Winefield, Pauleen Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: The human–animal bond (HAB) has been shown to provide a buffering effect for stress and adversity, particularly when individuals experience lower social support networks. This study aimed to explore the relationship between the HAB, perceived human social support and resilience by assessing whether the HAB could moderate the impact of social support as a protective factor for resilience. Additionally, whether the relationship between the HAB and human social support may be curvilinear was explored. Method: A cross-sectional study of a large community sample of pet owners (n = 392) and non-owners (n = 146) provided information about their human social supports and resilience, and the strength of pet owners emotional bond to their companion animal. Results: There was no difference in levels of resilience between pet owners and non-owners, but social support was positively associated with resilience for both. The HAB was not a significant moderator between levels of social support and resilience for owners. However, there was a significant curvilinear relationship between the HAB and perceived human social support. Conclusion: The lack of evidence for HAB being a buffer between perceived human social support and resilience may partly be due to the curvilinear relationship between the strength of the HAB and perceived human social support. Extremely weak or strong HABs may be correlated with a reduced capacity to build resilience and process adversity. Therefore, this study highlights the complexities of the HAB and its relationship with human mental health, offering alternative considerations for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-738
Number of pages10
JournalAustralian Psychologist
Volume55
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • animal companions
  • human–animal bond
  • mental health
  • pets
  • resilience
  • social support

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