A child's best friend is the family pet, a new study suggests. Not only do kids report getting more satisfaction from relationships with the dog or cat than their brothers and sisters, they also get along better with the four-legged friend. "The fact that pets cannot understand or talk back may even be a benefit as it means they are completely non-judgmental," says lead author Matt Cassels of Cambridge University. The study is the latest to suggest that pets may have a major influence on child development, aiding kids' well-being and social skills, reports Medical XPress. For the study in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, researchers surveyed 77 12-year-olds with at least one sibling and pet at home.
The kids reported stronger relationships and lower levels of conflict with the family animal, which is perhaps not surprising since only one party can talk. (RedOrbit also notes that 12-year-olds may be reticent about publicly admitting they love a sibling.) The team found that "girls reported more disclosure, companionship, and conflict with their pet than did boys, perhaps indicating that girls may interact with their pets in more nuanced ways," says Cassels. All in all, the benefits young people derive from their pets "may well support psychological well-being later in life," says co-author Dr. Nancy Gee, who adds that more research is needed. Sorry, cat people, dogs delivered the most satisfaction in the survey. (Pope Francis prefers you have kids over pets.)