Positive Engagement with Pets Buffers the Impact of Intimate Partner Violence on Callous-Unemotional Traits in Children.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Childhood exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) is associated with serious psychological outcomes including increased odds of developing callous-unemotional (CU) traits and behaviors. Recent studies suggest that concomitant exposure to animal cruelty (AC) may increase this risk. However, even under these circumstances, bonds with companion animals may still be a protective factor that buffers the deleterious impact of IPV on child adjustment. This cross-sectional study evaluates whether, and to what extent, the association between exposure to IPV and children's CU and empathic-prosocial (EP) traits vary as a function of children's positive engagement with pets and exposure to AC. Participants included 204 children (aged 7-12 years; 57% Latinx) and their maternal caregiver who were recruited from domestic violence agencies in a western US state. We conducted multiple moderation analyses to evaluate each outcome individually (i.e., CU traits, EP traits), adjusting for the effects of child age, gender, and Hispanic ethnicity. Positive engagement with pets significantly moderated the relationship between IPV and CU traits, ∇R = 0.03, F (1, 195) = 7.43, β = -0.17, t(195) = -2.73, p = .007. Specifically, when high levels of positive engagement with pets is present, IPV is negatively associated with CU traits, whereas the reverse was true at low levels of positive engagement with pets. Evidence of moderation by AC was not supported. Our findings suggest that children who form close relationships with their pets in the context of IPV appear to derive important support from these animals; safeguarding the well-being of these animals may be critical to their long-term emotional health.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Murphy, JL; Voorhees, EV; O'Connor, KE; Tomlinson, CA; Matijczak, A; Applebaum, JW; Ascione, FR; Williams, JH; McDonald, SE

Published Date

  • October 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 37 / 19-20

Start / End Page

  • NP17205 - NP17226

PubMed ID

  • 34275347

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1552-6518

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/08862605211028301


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States