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A growing body of literature suggests people are choosing to forego parenthood, bringing companion animals into the home as a focus for people’s attachment and caretaking behavior instead. This emergent “pet parenting” can be defined as the parent-like investment in companion animals and has been linked to countries that are experiencing or have experienced the Second Demographic Transition (SDT) marked by subreplacement fertility, changing marriage norms, increased educational attainment, and a flexible life orientation no longer focused solely on reproduction. In this research, we sought to determine if Finland, a country where the SDT has already been evidenced, is also experiencing an emergence of pet parenting and whether there is a difference between parents’, nonparents’, and future parents’ attachment and caregiving behaviors toward companion animals in the home. A total of 857 participants completed an online survey delivered in Finnish and English which included demographic questions, the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS), and a series of questions designed to probe topics regarding the training of companion animals, generalized caretaking, and the ascription of personhood or autonomy to companion animals under the respondent’s care. Future parents reported more agreement across all scales of the LAPS, followed by nonparents than parents. Future parents also reported more frequency of behaviors associated with Affective Responsiveness, while nonparents reported more frequency of behaviors associated with Training and Play and General Care. From our results, we argue that Finland does seem to be experiencing the emergence of pet parenting, likely in response to the SDT, and this is demonstrated by marked differences in attachment and caregiving behaviors directed at companion animals in the home.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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