Certain companion animals’ relationship to humans is analogous to child–parent attachment. Further, pet-keeping is associated with less physical and psychological health problems and animal-assisted interventions ameliorate depressive symptoms. Accordingly, cognitive representations of pet-keeping and parenthood may be related, and pet-keeping may protect against postpartum depression symptoms (PPDS). To test these hypotheses, we examined cognitive representations of pet-keeping and motherhood as well as various cognitive correlates of those in 715 women in an online questionnaire. Results indicate that among women who perceive maternity as a burdensome role, pet ownership is associated with an increased likelihood of having had PPDS. Among women with children, pet owners perceive maternity as more burdensome than non-owners and pet owners with a more positive attitude towards their pets are more likely to find maternity as a burdensome role. These findings suggest a relationship between women’s thoughts regarding pets and motherhood and also that, to some degree, women perceive pets as playing a similar role as children. Importantly, childless women who own a pet perceived motherhood as less difficult; this effect of pet-keeping can be capitalized upon in the treatment of women whose psychological characteristics play a role in their infertility.
- Cognitive representation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)