ASI’s Lisa Lunghofer will be giving three webinars, beginning April 20, on animal abuse and children, in conjunction with Humane Society Academy.
Background. All forms of violence exposure—especially in combination and over time—can be detrimental to children. Notably lacking in the discussion of children’s exposure to violence is the role of animals in children’s lives. Given that children may be more likely to grow up in a home with a pet than a live-at-home father, this is an important gap. A growing body of research suggests that childhood exposure to animal abuse—either as a perpetrator or a witness—is an important risk factor. For example, animal abuse has been found to co-occur with family violence. Since 1987, animal cruelty has been included in the criteria for conduct disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Animal abuse is a symptom that appears early in the development of conduct disorder (Miller, 2001) – even earlier than symptoms such as bullying and fire-setting (Frick, et al., 1993). A meta-analysis of 60 studies found that animal abuse could be used to discriminate between children with severe and mild conduct problems (Frick et al., 1993). Mental health experts agree that early identification of children at risk can lead to more effective interventions.
Audience. This three-part webinar series is intended for professionals from a range of disciplines who work with children and youth, including social workers, attorneys, probation officers, judges, school counselors, teachers, child care providers, and community members.
Wednesday, April 20, 1 p.m. –Webinar #1—Animal Abuse and Children: An Important Risk Factor
The webinar will begin with a discussion of the role companion animals play in children’s lives. We will discuss the growing body of research on the relationship between animal abuse and other types of antisocial behavior, focusing on animal abuse as an important risk factor in children. Participants will learn about animal abuse as an early marker for conduct disorder and research that suggests animal abuse may be related to other adverse childhood experiences, including maltreatment. Using case studies, we will explain why all professionals dealing with children should be aware of animal abuse as a risk factor for children.
Wednesday, May 25, 1 p.m. – Webinar #2—Assessing Children’s Relationships with Animals
The second webinar will focus on assessing children’s relationships (both positive and negative) with animals. We will discuss what professionals should look for and the types of questions that might be asked about animal-related experiences. Using case examples, we will discuss the importance of individualized assessment and review factors to consider in assessment.
Wednesday, June 22, 1 p.m. – Webinar #3—Intervening with Children who Witnessed or Engaged in Animal Abuse
In the third webinar, we will describe and discuss the range of intervention resources available for children who have witnessed, engaged in, or are at risk of engaging in animal abuse. These include psychological intervention using the AniCare Child approach and psycho-education programs such as the Children and Animals Together (CAT) Assessment and Treatment Program. We will also discuss prevention programs for children who are at risk of engaging in animal abuse.
Learning objectives: Following this webinar series participants will be able to describe:
- Ways in which animal abuse affects children and family systems, citing available research on animal abuse and its link to other behavior problems.
- Key factors to consider in assessing animal abuse and approaches to conducting an assessment interview to explore a child’s relationships with animals.
- Ways in which assessment data can be used to guide choice of intervention strategies.
- Trauma-focused strategies for intervening with children who have abused animals or witnessed abuse.
Frick, P.J., Van Horn, Y., Lahey, B.B., Christ, M.A.G., Loeber, R., Hart, E.A., Tannenbaum, L., & Hanson, K. (1993). Oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder: A meta-analytic review of factor analyses and cross-validation in a clinical sample. Clinical Psychology Review, 13, 319–340.
Miller, C. (2001). Childhood animal cruelty and interpersonal violence. Clinical Psychology Review, 21, 735-749.