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I am intrigued by the abundance of companion animals present in the hands of youths around me, and hence, would like to investigate as to how pet ownership influence youths’ social-emotional development in Singapore. In order to do so, I researched for articles detailing similar studies or experiments conducted previously by professionals from digital libraries and the Internet. I also sent out a questionnaire to Singaporean youths between the ages of fifteen to sixteen to collect raw data, which i then organized to be more presentable, and summarize the information. After collating sufficient data and information from my literature review and personal data collection, I analyzed and found the key points that pertained to my investigation. This allowed me to conclude at the end of my investigation that pet ownership affects Singaporean youths’ ability to empathize and self-rely, degree of loneliness and level of diligence.
Pets are domestic animals kept for companionship, and are something that is not foreign to Singaporeans. In fact, most Singaporeans have owned at least one pet in their lifetime, be it a dog, a hamster, or even a frog. Every day we see people of all ages walking their dogs around the neighborhood. Almost every shopping center and mall in the country has a pet store, where pet food, pet toys, or sometimes even the pet itself can be purchased. Hence, it is evident that pets have been integrated into part of the community and society in Singapore. I have observed that nowadays, many youths in Singapore own pets or have intention of pet ownership. This sparks my interest. Adolescence is a crucial life phase due to its contribution to our quality of health and emotional well-being . However, common knowledge of youth development have been limited to their relationships with other human beings. Pet ownership is also very common, but not something looked deeply into. Hence, I am interested in assessing if pets bring any benefits towards the lives of adolescents. More specifically, I want to study the effect owning a pet has on the psychological development of emotional intelligence in youth. Hence, my inquiry question is How does pet ownership influence youths’ social-emotional development in Singapore?
To conduct my inquiry effectively, I have planned to undergo three steps; research, collate and conclude. Firstly, I will search for and look at articles detailing similar studies or experiments conducted previously by professionals. These articles will be sourced from the internet through the usage of appropriate search engines such as Google Scholar and digital libraries such as JSTOR.
I will gather information from these articles, find relevant points that can to aid me in my investigation, and summarize the information. Secondly, I will conduct my own collation of raw data. I will do so by surveying youths that both have and have not owned pets. I will then organize the data such that it is presentable, allowing greater ease for me to analyze it. I will then summarize the information I have gathered through the questionnaire.
Lastly, based on my literature review and the data I collected to answer my inquiry question, I will arrive at an understanding. I will then form a well-developed conclusion based on that understanding and conclude my inquiry.
From reviewing the articles and reports I have sourced from digital and physical libraries, it is evident that pet ownership in youths adversely benefits their emotional health. For instance, according to Rhoades (2015), pet owning youths reported fewer symptoms of depression and loneliness than their non-pet owning peers. It is also proven that social development is also linked to pet ownership, but only if the youths have been in the presence of these companion animals since a young age. No effects of pet ownership on social measures were found in 13 – 18-year-old adolescents, but children who scored higher on the attachment to pets scale also show significantly higher scores on empathy scales. Self- reliance and independent decision skills are also higher in these children. Hence, a youth that has been owning a pet since little would have undergone these developments in their social domain.
On the 8th of May 2018, I sent out a questionnaire to the Year 3s and 4s in St Joseph’s Institution and my associates that are of the same age group in other secondary schools. The questionnaire consisted of two parts; a personal information form and a presentation of a handful of situations whereby surveyees have to choose the option that reflects their reaction the best, similar to an emotional quotient (EQ) test. In the personal information form, the surveyees’ age, gender, family background and experience regarding pet ownership was recorded. This allowed me to categorize the data such that I could eliminate all other factors that are related to socio-emotional development in youths, and compare the results solely based off their pet ownership status. I then analyzed the different responses I received from 57 respondents, and made a few crucial discoveries Firstly, youths who have had experienced pet ownership are more willing to engage themselves in the midst of a conflict in order to find a solution. In the questionnaire, the following situation was presented; you’ve taken a group of 4-year-olds to the park, and one of them starts crying because the others won’t play with her.
A greater percentage of respondents who have never owned a pet chose to stay out of it, while most of those who had spent time with a companion animal before chose to talk to the crying child and help her to figure out ways to get the other kids to play with her. Hence, it can be inferred that pet ownership aids youths in developing the willingness to discuss a problem or in order to find a solution. Secondly, pet ownership instigates better perseverance and failure management in teenagers.
In the questionnaire, the following situation was presented. Imagine you are an insurance salesman calling prospective clients. Fifteen people in a row have hung up on you, and you are getting discouraged. Respondents who have experience with pets mostly chose to reassess what they are doing wrong and try something new. Only a handful of them chose to give up and call it a day, or consider a new line of occupation.
Another situation that was presented was: Assume you had hoped to get an A in one of your subjects, but you have just found out you got a Con the midterm. A lower percentage of youths who have owned companion animals chose to give up on the subject compared to that of those who have not. Therefore, it can be seen that pet owners do not give up as easily compared to their peers who lack the experience. However, not all effects of pet ownership on youths’ social-emotional development are positive. Pet owners also seem to be less diligent in pursuing proficiency in recreational activities.
For some time now, you have wanted to return to playing the musical instrument you learned to play when you were younger. You have finally gotten around to practicing again, and want to make the best use of your time was presented in the questionnaire. All of the respondents who chose the option to only practice when they are in the mood are pet owners, while majority of those who have not owned pets chose to pick pieces that are beyond their current ability but can be mastered with diligent effort. Hence, based off the questionnaire, it can be inferred that pet ownership causes teenagers to be less diligent in co-curricular activities. Apart from these few situations, six other situations were also presented. However, the socio-emotional trait being tested is evenly spread out among both youths that own pets and those that do not, so i cannot make a fair comparison based on these responses, and can only conclude that the presence of companion animals has no effect on youths’ developments of these character traits.
After analyzing my literature review and data collection, I have come to the conclusion that pet ownership influence youths’ social-emotional development in Singapore in four aspects; empathy, self-reliance, loneliness and diligence. Firstly, pet owners are more empathic and benevolent. They are more willing to step in to help out in situations where others would feel unwilling to and rather mind their own business. Secondly, they are also more self-reliant and able to cope well with setbacks. They do not give up easily when encountering difficulty and are able to make independent decisions on how to push on. Adolescents that have experience owning pets are also less prone to feeling lonely, partially because they have the company of their companion animal, and less likely to fall into depression.
Lastly, they are less diligent than their peers when pursuing prowess in personal recreation. This could be due to them being accustomed to spending their free times with their pets instead of other recreational activities, so when faced with the choice to pursue these activities, they would rather use their time to keep their pets company. After coming to this conclusion, I decided that for my product, I will produce a brochure that details the findings of my investigation. This brochure will be able to inform youths who are contemplating pet ownership the benefits and disadvantages this decision could have on their socio-emotional ability, and would hopefully be able to aid them in making a well-informed choice that they will not regret, since placing the life of another being into your hands is a huge commitment.
The greatest limitation I faced was that I had not conducted any interviews. I had previously intended to interview youths that either own or do not own pets and professionals in the fields related to my study. However, I had not done so as I could not find any of my schoolmates that were willing to be interviewed, mostly due to it being the examination period, and could not get in contact with any of the professionals. I also feel that I am to be blamed for this, as I may have been too idle in pursuing interviewees.
Due to the lack of interviews, I am unable to collect more data, and my investigation had to be mainly based around my literature review and survey responses. I also had a lower amount of responses to my questionnaire than I had originally expected. This could be due to two reasons: either I sent out my questionnaire a little too late or not many people were interested in my topic to bother responding. Although the low amount of responses gave me the chance to diligently go through each response, I was not able to collect enough data to make as many definite conclusions as I had expected to. This was also a factor that led to my investigation having to be mainly based around my literature review and survey responses, and my conclusion not being as backed up as I had wanted them to be.
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