Adolescents’ interactions with animals are of increasing interest and their beneficial developmental outcomes are well known. However, negative interactions such as perpetrating cruelty toward animals during childhood and adolescence have been related with child abuse, domestic violence, and later interpersonal violence. Cruelty toward animals by adolescents has been reported predominately in criminal and clinical samples, and links have been made between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence. However, studies often lack a clear definition of animal cruelty and the animal involved. The present study addresses methodological shortcomings by providing a clear definition of the cruelty acts and the animals involved and the time frame within which cruelty acts have been taken place. Therefore, we investigated the prevalence of animal cruelty of 979 British adolescents (419 male, 497 female, Mage = 15.1 ± 1.57 years) by means of a survey questionnaire administered in school. Animal cruelty was investigated encompassing deliberate and nondeliberate cruelty acts, a clear definition of the target animals was included and a time frame was provided. Furthermore, acceptability of animal cruelty, engaging in antisocial behavior, and family affluence were investigated. Results show high reliabilities for the measures applied. Exploratory factor analysis reveals different types of animal cruelty. Gender differences were observed for deliberate and accidental cruelty acts, with boys reporting higher levels than girls. Younger adolescents reported higher accidental cruelty acts than older ones. Acceptance of animal cruelty played a significant role in predicting animal cruelty, together with antisocial behaviors and place of living. The present study shows for the first time the importance of distinguishing between different types of animal cruelty and defining the animals involved.
- Youth violence
- Community violence