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.

Adams, C.L., Bonnett, B.N., & Meek, A.H. (2000). Predictors of owner response to companion animal death in 177 clients from 14 practices in Ontario. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 217, 1303-1309.
Albert, A., & Bulcroft, K. (1988). Pets, families, and the life course. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 50, 543-552.
Allen, K., Shykoff, B.E., & Izzo, J.L. (2001). Pet ownership, but not ACE inhibitor therapy, blunts home blood pressure responses to mental stress. Hypertension, 38, 815-820.
American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (2009). 2008-2009 APPMA national pet owners survey. (accessed August 30, 2011).
American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (2013). 2013-2014 APPA national pet owners survey. (accessed December 1, 2013).
American Veterinary Medical Association. (2013). Who we are.
Argyle, M. (2009). Social interaction. Piscataway: Transaction.
Ascione, F.R. (1997). Humane education research: Evaluating efforts to encourage children's kindness and caring toward animals. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 123, 57-77.
Bachi, K. (2012). Equine-facilitated psychotherapy: The gap between practice and knowledge. Society and Animals, 20, 364-380.
Baltes, P.B., & Baltes, M.M. (1990). Psychological perspectives on successful aging: The model of selective optimization with compensation. In P.B. Baltes & M.M. Baltes (Eds.), Successful aging: Perspectives from the behavioral sciences (pp. 1-34). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Barker, S.B., & Dawson, K.S. (1998). The effects of animal-assisted therapy on anxiety ratings of hospitalized psychiatric patients. Psychiatric Services, 49, 797-801.
Bauman, A., Schroeder, J., Furber, S., & Dobson, A. (2001). The epidemiology of dog walking: An unmet need for human and canine health. Medical Journal of Australia, 175, 632-634.
Beck, A.M. (2000). The use of animals to benefit humans: Animal-assisted therapy. In A.H. Fine (Ed.), Handbook on animal-assisted therapy: Theoretical foundations and guidelines for practice (pp. 21-40). San Diego: Academic Press.
Bertoti, D.B. (1988). Effect of therapeutic horseback riding on posture in children with cerebral palsy. Physical Therapy, 68, 1505-1512.
Bogdanich, W., Drape, J., Miles, D.L., & Palmer, G. (2012, March 24). Mangled horses, maimed jockeys. The New York Times.
Brandtstädter, J. (1998). Action perspectives on human development. In W. Damon (Series Ed.) & R.M. Lerner (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology. Vol. 1: Theoretical models of human development (5th ed., pp. 807-863). New York: Wiley.
Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P.A. (2006). The bioecological model of human development. In R.M. Lerner & W. Damon (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology. Vol. 1: Theoretical models of human development (6th ed., pp. 793-828). Hoboken: Wiley.
Budge, R.C., Spicer, J., Jones, B., & St. George, R. (1998). Health correlates of compatibility and attachment in human-companion animal relationships. Society & Animals, 6, 219-234.
Cawley, R., Cawley, D., & Retter, K. (1994). Therapeutic horseback riding and self-concept in adolescents with special educational needs. Anthrozoös, 7, 129-134.
Chardonnens, E. (2009). The use of animals as co-therapists on a farm: The child-horse bond in person-centered equine-assisted psychotherapy. Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapies, 8, 319-332.
Charleson, S. (2010). Scent of the missing. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Chess, S., & Thomas, A. (1996). Temperament: Theory and practice. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
Covert, A.M., Whiren, A.P., Keith, J., & Nelson, C. (1985). Pets, early adolescents, and families. Marriage & Family Review, 8, 95-108.
Dalziel, D.J., Uthman, B.M., McGorray, S.P., & Reep, R.L. (2003). Seizure-alert dogs: A review and preliminary study. Seizure,12, 115-120.
Damon, W. (2008). The path to purpose: Helping our children find their calling in life. New York: Free Press, Simon & Schuster.
Elder, G.H. (1998) The life course as developmental theory. Child Development, 69, 1-12.
Elder, G.H., & Shanahan, M.J. (2006). The life course and human development. In R.M. Lerner (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology. Vol. 1: Theoretical models of human development (pp. 665-715). Hoboken: Wiley.
Ewing, C., MacDonald, P., Taylor, M., & Bowers, M. (2007). Equine-facilitated learning for youths with severe emotional disorders: A quantitative and qualitative study. Child and YouthCare Forum, 36, 59-72.
Freund, A.M., & Baltes, P.B. (2002). Life-management strategies of selection, optimization and compensation: Measurement by self-report and construct validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 642-662.
Galvin, S.L., & Herzog, H.A. (1992). The ethical judgment of animal research. Ethics & Behavior, 2, 262-286.
Gestsdóttir, S., & Lerner, R.M. (2007). Intentional self-regulation and positive youth development in early adolescence: Findings from the 4-h study of positive youth development. Developmental Psychology, 43, 508-521.
Gestsdóttir, S., & Lerner, R.M. (2008). Positive development in adolescence: The development and role of intentional self-regulation. Human Development, 51, 202-224.
Gestsdóttir, S., Lewin-Bizan, S., von Eye, A., Lerner, J.V., & Lerner, R.M. (2009). The structure and function of selection, optimization, and compensation in middle adolescence: Theoretical and applied implications. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30, 585-600.
Glaberson, W. (2011, August 8). By helping a girl testify at a rape trial, a dog ignites a legal debate. The New York Times.
Gorman, J. (2012, January 2). Animal studies cross campus to lecture hall. The New York Times.
Gosse, G.H., & Barnes, M.J. (1994). Human grief resulting from the death of a pet. Anthrozoös, 7, 103-112.
Greene, M.F. (2012, February 2). Wonder dog. The New York Times.
Grimes, W. (2012, April 5). New treatments to save a pet, but questions about the cost. The New York Times.
Guéguen, N., & Ciccotti, S. (2008). Domestic dogs as facilitators in social interaction: An evaluation of helping and courtship behaviors. Anthrozoös, 21, 339-349.
Haidt, J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychological Review, 108, 814-834.
Haidt, J. (2008). Morality. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 65-72.
Herzog, H.A. (2010). Some we love, some we hate, some we eat: Why it's so hard to think straight about animals. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
Herzog, H.A. (2011). The impact of pets on human health and psychological well-being: Fact, fiction, or hypothesis? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20, 236-239.
Herzog, H.A., & Golden, L.L. (2009). Moral emotions and social activism: The case of animal rights. Journal of Social Issues, 65, 485-498.
Kahn, P.H., Jr., Friedman, B., Perez-Granados, D.R., & Freier, N.G. (2006). Robotic pets in the lives of preschool children. Interaction Studies: Social Behavior and Communication in Biological and Artificial Systems, 7, 405-436.
Kahn, P.H., Jr., Saunders, C.D., Severson, R.L., Myers, O.E., Jr., & Gill, B.T. (2008). Moral and fearful affiliations with the animal world: Children's conceptions of bats. Anthrozoös,21, 375-386.
Katcher, A.H., & Beck, A.M. (1987). Health and caring for living things. Anthrozoös, 1, 175-183.
Kazdin, A. (2011). Establishing the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapies: Methodological standards, issues, and strategies. In P. McCardle, S. McCune, J.A. Griffin, & V. Maholmes (Eds.), How animals affect us: Examining the influence of human-animal interaction on child development and human health (pp. 35-51). Washington: American Psychological Association.
King, P.E., Carr, D., & Boitor, C. (2011). Religion, spirituality, positive youth development, and thriving. In R.M. Lerner, J.V. Lerner, & J.B. Benson (Eds.), Advances in child development and behavior. Vol. 41: Positive youth development: Research and applications for promoting thriving in adolescence (pp. 161-195). London: Academic.
Knight, S., & Herzog, H.A. (2009). All creatures great and small: New perspectives on psychology and human-animal interactions. Journal of Social Issues, 65, 451-461.
Kosonen, M. (1996). Siblings as providers of support and care during middle childhood: Children's perceptions. Children & Society, 10, 267-279.
Kurdek, L.A. (2009). Pet dogs as attachment figures for adult owners. Journal of Family Psychology, 23, 439-446.
Lerner, J.V., Bowers, E.P., Minor, K., Boyd, M.J., Mueller, M.K., Schmid, K.L., Napolitano, C.M., Lewin-Bizan, S., & Lerner, R.M. (2012). Positive youth development: Processes, philosophies, and programs. In R.M. Lerner, M.A. Easterbrooks, & J. Mistry (Eds.), Handbook of psychology. Vol. 6: Developmental psychology (2nd ed., pp. 365-392). Hoboken: Wiley.
Lerner, J.V., Phelps, E., Forman, Y., & Bowers, E.P. (2009). Positive youth development. In R.M. Lerner & L. Steinberg (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent psychology. Vol. 1: Individual bases of adolescent development (3rd ed., pp. 524-558). Hoboken: Wiley.
Lerner, R.M. (1984). On the nature of human plasticity. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Lerner, R.M. (2004). Liberty: Thriving and civic engagement among American youth. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Lerner, R.M. (2006). Developmental science, developmental systems, and contemporary theories of human development. In W. Damon & R.M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology (pp. 1-17). New York: Wiley.
Lerner, R.M. (2012). Essay review: Developmental science: Past, present, and future. International Journal of Developmental Science, 6, 29-36.
Lerner, R.M., Freund, A.M., De Stefanis, I., & Habermas, T. (2001). Understanding developmental regulation in adolescence: The use of the selection, optimization, and compensation model. Human Development, 44, 29-50.
Mallon, G.P. (1994). Some of our best therapists are dogs. Child & Youth Care Forum,23, 89-101.
Mariti, C., Papi, F., Mengoli, M., Moretti, G., Martelli, F., & Gazzano, A. (2011). Improvement in children's humaneness toward nonhuman animals through a project of educational anthrozoology. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 6, 12-20.
Marks, S.G., Koepke, J.E., & Bradley, C.L. (1994). Pet attachment and generativity among young adults. Journal of Psychology, 128, 641-650.
Meinersmann, K.M., Bradberry, J., & Roberts, F.B. (2008). Equine-facilitated psychotherapy with adult female survivors of abuse. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services,46, 36-42.
Melson, G.F., & Fogel, A. (1989). Children's ideas about animal young and their care: A reassessment of gender differences in the development of nurturance. Anthrozoös, 2, 265-273.
Melson, G.F., Peet, S., & Sparks, C. (1992). Children's attachment to their pets: Links to socio-emotional development. Children's Environments Quarterly, 8, 55-65.
Melson, G.F., Schwarz, R.I., & Beck, A.M. (1997). Importance of companion animals in children's lives: Implications for veterinary practice. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 211, 1512-1518.
Morey, D.F. (2006). Burying key evidence: The social bond between dogs and people. Journal of Archaeological Science, 33, 158-175.
Mueller, M.K., Geldhof, G.J., & Lerner, R.M. (2013). The role of human-animal interaction in organizing adolescents' self-regulatory abilities: An exploratory study. Poster presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle.
Mueller, M.K., Phelps, E., Bowers, E.P., Agans, J., Urban, J.B., & Lerner, R.M. (2011). Youth development program participation and intentional-self regulation skills: Contextual and individual bases of pathways to positive youth development. Journal of Adolescence, 34, 1115-1125.
National Future Farmers of America Organization (2012). FFA statistics.
Overton, W.F. (2010). Life-span development: Concepts and issues. In W.F. Overton (Ed.), Cognition, biology, and methods across the life span.Vol. 1: Handbook of life-span development. Hoboken: Wiley.
Overton, W.F. (2011). Relational developmental systems and quantitative behavior genetics: Alternative of parallel methodologies. Research in Human Development, 8, 258-263.
Overton, W.F. (2013). Relationism and relational developmental systems: A paradigm for developmental science in the post-Cartesian era. In R.M. Lerner & J.B. Benson (Eds.), Advances in child development and behavior: Embodiment and epigenesis: Theoretical and methodological issues in understanding the role of biology within the relational developmental system (pp. 21-64). San Diego: Academic Press.
Overton, W.F., & Müller, U. (2012). Meta-theories, theories, and concepts in the study of development. In R.M. Lerner, M.A. Easterbrooks, & J. Mistry (Eds.), Comprehensive handbook of psychology: Developmental psychology. Vol. 6 (pp. 19-58). New York: Wiley.
Roberts, F., Bradberry, J., & Williams, C. (2004). Equine-facilitated psychotherapy benefits students and children. Holistic Nursing Practice, 18, 32-35.
Serpell, J.A. (2000). Creatures of the unconscious: Companion animals as mediators. In A.L. Podberscek, E.S. Paul, & J.A. Serpell (Eds.), Companion animals and us (pp. 108-121). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Siegel, J.M. (1995). Pet ownership and the importance of pets among adolescents. Anthrozoös, 8, 217-223.
Soproni, K., Miklósi, A., Topál, J., & Csányi, V. (2002). Dogs (canis familiaris) responsiveness to human pointing gestures. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 116, 27-34.
Souter, M.A., & Miller, M.D. (2007). Do animal-assisted activities effectively treat depression? A meta-analysis. Anthrozoös, 20, 167-180.
Stallones, L., Johnson, T.P., Garrity, T.F., & Marx, M.B. (1990). Quality of attachment to companion animals among U.S. adults 21 to 64 years of age. Anthrozoös, 3, 171-176.
Swaisgood, R.R. (2007). Current status and future directions of applied behavioral research for animal welfare and conservation. Applied Animal Behavior Science, 102, 139-162.
Téglás, E., Gergely, A., Kupán, K., Miklósi, Á., & Topál, J. (2012) Dogs' gaze following is tuned to human communicative signals. Current Biology, 22, 209-213.
Timperio, A., Salmon, J., Chu, B., & Andrianopoulos, N. (2008). Is dog ownership or dog walking associated with weight status in children and their parents? Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 19, 60-63.
Turiel, E. (1998). The development of morality. In W. Damon & N. Eisenberg (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology.Vol. 3: Social, emotional, and personality development (5th ed., pp. 863-932). New York: Wiley.
Turiel, E. (in press). Moral development. In W.F. Overton & P.C.M. Molenaar (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology and developmental science. Vol.1: Theory & method (7th ed.). Hoboken: Wiley.
Vidović, V.V., Štetić, V.V., & Bratko, D. (1999). Pet ownership, type of pet, and socio-emotional development of school children. Anthrozoös, 12, 211-217.
Wendt, L.M. (1996). Dogs: A historical journey. The human/dog connection through the centuries. New York: Howell Book House.
Wood, L., Giles-Corti, B., & Bulsara, M. (2005). The pet connection: Pets as a conduit for social capital? Social Science & Medicine, 61, 1159-1173.
Zaff, J.F., Hart, D., Flanagan, C.A., Youniss, J., & Levine, P. (2010). Developing civic engagement within a civic context. In R.M. Lerner (Ed.-in-chief), M.E. Lamb, & A.M. Freund (Vol. Eds.), The handbook of life-span development. Vol. 2: Social and emotional development (pp. 590-630). Hoboken: Wiley.
Zarrett, N., Fay, K., Carrano, J., Li, Y., Phelps, E., & Lerner, R.M. (2009). More than child's play: Variable- and pattern-centered approaches for examining effects of sports participation on youth development. Developmental Psychology,45, 368-382.
Zarrett, N., Peltz, J., Fay, K., Li, Y., & Lerner, R.M. (2007). Sports and youth development programs: Theoretical and practical implications of early adolescent participation in multiple instances of structured out-of-school (OST) activity. Journal of Youth Development, 2, 7-20.
Zimmerman, S., Phelps, E., & Lerner, R.M. (2007). Intentional self-regulation in early adolescence: Assessing the structure of selection, optimization, and compensations processes. European Journal of Developmental Science, 1, 272-299.
Copyright / Drug Dosage / Disclaimer
Copyright: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated into other languages, reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, microcopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication. However, in view of ongoing research, changes in government regulations, and the constant flow of information relating to drug therapy and drug reactions, the reader is urged to check the package insert for each drug for any changes in indications and dosage and for added warnings and precautions. This is particularly important when the recommended agent is a new and/or infrequently employed drug.
Disclaimer: The statements, opinions and data contained in this publication are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of the publishers and the editor(s). The appearance of advertisements or/and product references in the publication is not a warranty, endorsement, or approval of the products or services advertised or of their effectiveness, quality or safety. The publisher and the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content or advertisements.
You do not currently have access to this content.