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Ward A, Arola N, Bohnert A, Lieb R. Social-emotional adjustment and pet ownership among adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of communication disorders. 2017 Jan 25; 65:35-42.
Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often experience poor social-emotional adjustment and interactions with peers, but taking care of a family pet may serve as a buffer. This study utilized 81 parent-adolescent dyads to examine how dimensions of pet ownership (responsibility, comfort, companionship) may be associated with social-emotional adjustment (depression, loneliness, friendship quality) among adolescents with ASD, as well as how social impairments may influence these relations. Results revealed that adolescents who took more responsibility for their pet exhibited fewer depressive symptoms. Additionally, parents of more socially impaired adolescents reported better friendship quality than less socially impaired adolescents. Findings suggest taking care of a pet may facilitate better social-emotional adjustment among adolescents with ASD.