‘It’s a dog’s life’: culture, empathy, gender and domestic violence predict animal abuse in adolescents – implications for societal health

Malcolm Plant, Paul Van Schaik, Eleonora Gullone, Clifton P. Flynn

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Abstract

Whereas the majority of previous research conducted on animal abuse has been in environments where animal abuse is rarely evidenced, the current study investigated the ramifications of animal abuse in an environment wherein the national culture creates an ethos of the ‘social acceptability’ of animal abuse in society. Two survey studies were conducted with adolescent participants, to investigate the role played by several factors in the prediction of animal abuse in this age group. In Study 1, with samples from two different national cultures (101 from Germany and 169 from Romania; 143 boys/135 girls; age 13-17), animal abuse was negatively associated with affective empathy and national culture; more frequent animal abuse was found in Romania. Affective empathy fully mediated the association between gender and animal abuse. Specifically, girls were found to be higher in affective empathy; in turn, participants who were higher in affective empathy committed less animal abuse. Witnessing animal abuse was also predictive of engaging in animal abuse, but not independent of national culture. In Study 2, 15-year old males (n = 21) and females (n = 39) took part, 29 from rural and 31 from urban locations in Romania. Rural adolescents were more likely to abuse animals and had higher exposure to domestic violence, which (in turn) was associated with more animal abuse. The implications of these findings in a society where animal abuse is encouraged and enacted on a national scale are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)-
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2016

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