The Health and Developmental Benefits of Companion Animals for Young Children
About the Session
This lecture will feature a conversation with Dr. Hayley Christian, Principal Research Fellow at the Telethon Kids Institute, National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow, and Associate Professor at The University of Western Australia , about her ongoing HABRI-funded research project, “The Health and Developmental Benefits of Companion Animals for Young Children: Advancing the Evidence Base”. In addition to sharing published and preliminary findings, the lecture will also include a discussion about implications for best practices and future directions in research focused on the impact of companion animals on child health and development.
Results from Objective 1 of Dr. Christian’s study were published in the journal Pediatric Research in July 2020. The aim was to investigate if active play and walking with the family dog facilitates improved developmental outcomes in young children. Results indicate that children of dog-owning families had lower peer problems, lower conduct problems, and higher prosocial behaviors than children from non-dog-owning families. In addition to benefitting from the presence of a dog in the home, even a small to moderate commitment to involving young children in time spent walking with the family dog may provide important social and emotional benefits for young children. Objective 2 of the study consists of a pilot intervention of strategies aimed at increasing the amount of time children spend active with their family dog for improving health and developmental outcomes.
This research project is part of the PLAYCE (PLAY Spaces and Environments for Children’s Physical Activity, Health & Development) program of research, a multidisciplinary team led by Dr. Christian and focused on turning challenges into opportunities to make a positive difference in children’s health and wellbeing. Dr. Christian will also provide an overview of the PLAYCE research program and its impact.
About the Speaker
Dr. Hayley Christian is the Principal Research Fellow at the Telethon Kids Institute, National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow, and Associate Professor at The University of Western Australia. Professor Christian has more than 18 years’ professional experience in health promotion practice, health promotion research project management and health promotion teaching and research. To help people enjoy good health and wellbeing throughout their lives, Professor Christian’s research focuses on improving children’s physical activity, health and wellbeing through multi-level interventions that are focused on the child, the family, and social and built environments. This includes identifying strategies to create healthy early childhood education and care environments and investigating how the home and neighborhood environment shapes children’s health and development. To make an impact on a wider scale, Professor Christian and her team work closely with government, non-government organizations, professional bodies and the private sector to identify and implement programs and policies to help children establish healthy behaviors early to provide the foundation for lifelong health.
Dr. Christian leads the PLAYCE (Play Spaces and Environments for Children’s Physical Activity) program of research, which is a multidisciplinary team focused on turning challenges into opportunities to make a positive difference in people’s health.