While acts of violence against humans and other animals share commonalities, and animal abuse may serve as a sentinel for current or future violence against people, the popular and professional acceptance of such strong connections requires greater scrutiny, according to a new critique.
Patterson-Kane, E., & Piper, H. (2009). Animal abuse as a sentinel for human violence: a critique. Journal of Social Issues, 65(3), 589-614.
In another article in the same journal, Frank R. Ascione, American Humane Endowed Chair at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work, and Kenneth Shapiro of the Animals & Society Institute address the challenges of defining and assessing animal abuse, the relationships between animal abuse and childhood mental health, and how empirical findings may impact human and animal welfare. Although the graduation hypothesis -- that animal abuse is a precursor of human abuse -- has not been substantiated in Link literature, such a progression is described in more general literature on anti-social and juvenile behavior, and robust findings of co-occurrence reinforce the need for early identification of animal abuse and intervention for at-risk populations. Ascione and Shapiro apply the public health model of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention to Link issues, and note that the topic of animal abuse provides a rich set of research opportunities, leading to potential new programs and policies.
Ascione, F.R., & Shapiro, K. (2009). People and animals, kindness and cruelty: research directions and policy implications. Journal of Social Issues, 65(3), 569-587.
In an effort to examine the socio-demographic, behavioral and psychiatric correlates of cruelty to animals, researchers conducted 43,093 structured psychiatric interviews. Personality, substance use, mood, anxiety disorders and cruelty to animals were assessed with the Alcohol Use Disorder and Associated Disabilities Interview Schedule. The lifetime prevalence of animal cruelty in adults was 1.8 percent. Men, African-Americans, Native Americans/Asians, native-born Americans, persons with lower levels of income and education, and adults living in the Western U.S. reported comparatively high levels of cruelty to animals, whereas Hispanics reported comparatively low levels. Cruelty to animals was significantly associated with all assessed anti-social behaviors. Adjusted analyses revealed strong associations between lifetime alcohol use disorders; conduct disorder; anti-social, obsessive-compulsive and histrionic personality disorders; pathological gambling; and family history of anti-social behavior, and cruelty to animals. Given these associations and the widespread ownership of pets and animals, the authors recommended that effective screening of children, adolescents and adults for animal cruelty and appropriate mental health interventions should be deployed.
Vaughn, M.G., Fu, Q., et al. (2009). Correlates of cruelty to animals in the United States: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Journal of Psychiatric Research (in press).