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Keywords:

  • childhood cruelty to animals;
  • China;
  • family functioning;
  • psychological adjustment

Abstract

Background

The current study broadened the general scope of research conducted on childhood cruelty to animals by examining the association between psychological adjustment, family functioning and animal cruelty in an Eastern context, China.

Method

The mothers and fathers of 729 children attending primary school in Chengdu, China participated in this study. Each parent completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, the Chinese Family Assessment Instrument, and the Children's Attitudes and Behaviours towards Animals questionnaire.

Results

Findings from an actor partner interdependence model demonstrated that parents' ratings of family functioning and of their child's externalizing coping style predicted only modest amounts of variance in animal cruelty. In particular, parents' ratings of their child's externalizing coping style most consistently predicted animal cruelty. Family functioning, fathers' ratings in particular, played a minor role, more so for boys compared with girls.

Conclusion

This study provided the first insight into childhood animal cruelty in China, and suggests that further research may enhance our understanding of these phenomena.