Human-Animal Interaction as a Context for Positive Youth Development: A Relational Developmental Systems Approach to Constructing Human-Animal Interaction Theory and ResearchMueller M.K.
Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, North Grafton, Mass., USA
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Human-animal relationships are both ubiquitous and diverse across the life span, and may be especially salient among children and adolescents. Although research into youth involvement in human-animal interaction (HAI) is growing, existing data have not adequately explored the developmental processes associated with HAI. The purpose of this article is to discuss why relational developmental systems models, which explore bidirectional influences between individuals and their contexts, constitute a useful paradigm for addressing the challenges and complexities in research pertaining to human-animal relations, particularly in the study of positive youth development. Recommendations are presented for building the field of youth HAI research through expanding the exploration of animal relationships in ways that may serve to promote trajectories of positive development across childhood and adolescence.
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