Infantilizing Companion Animals Through Attachment Theory: Why Shift to Behavioral Ecology-Based Paradigms for Welfare

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Abstract

Attachment theory, proposed in the 1950s to understand the development of parent-child relationships, is often applied to human–companion animal relationships. I argue the application of this paradigm to test nonhuman animals’ social bonds with humans infantilizes mature animals and has a detrimental impact on animal welfare. The premise is that Ainsworth’s Strange Situation Test is inappropriate to investigate the emotional ties between domestic animals and humans. Instead, I propose an alternative theory, that dogs form mature social bonds with their guardians, and that the phenomenon known as separation anxiety is the result either of the frustration of mature adult group behaviors, or an overdependency fostered by the guardian. Rather than view mature dogs as comparable to human infants in their social relationships, we should perceive them as socially and emotionally mature at adulthood and shift the focus from attachment-based paradigms to the behavioral ecology and cognition of companion animals.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSociety and Animals
Early online date18 Sep 2020
Publication statusEarly online date - 18 Sep 2020

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