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Factors that distinguish aggression towards animals from other antisocial behaviors: Evidence from a community sample

Alleyne, Emma, Parfitt, Charlotte (2018) Factors that distinguish aggression towards animals from other antisocial behaviors: Evidence from a community sample. Aggressive Behavior, 44 (5). pp. 481-490. ISSN 0096-140X. (doi:10.1002/ab.21768) (KAR id:66785)

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Animal cruelty is a form of passive and active aggression that is largely undocumented and unreported. Given that animals are voiceless victims, we have to rely on witnesses and frontline staff (e.g., veterinarians) to report incidents of abuse, which suggests the number of convicted animal abusers is an under‐representation of actual perpetrators. The primary aim of the current study was to identify the static and dynamic factors that distinguish animal abusers from non‐abuse offenders (i.e., individuals who self‐reported antisocial behavior, but not animal abuse), and non‐offenders (i.e., individuals who have not engaged in any antisocial behavior) in a community sample. The secondary aim was to identify the potential pathways that distinguish animal abuse perpetration from other types of antisocial behavior. Three hundred and eighty‐four participants took part in this retrospective, correlational study. We found that animal abusers share similar socio‐demographic characteristics to other offenders but are distinct in their exposure to animal harm/killing during childhood. Low animal‐oriented empathy and low self‐esteem distinguished animal abusers from non‐abuse offenders when controlling for confound variables and other psychological characteristics. We also found that low animal‐oriented empathy mediated the relationship between childhood exposure to animal killing and animal abuse perpetration, and that this relationship was stronger among participants with anger regulation issues. This is the first study to examine similarities and differences between animal abusers, non‐abuse offenders, and non‐offenders on socio‐demographic and psychological characteristics. The findings highlight potential treatment targets that are unique to animal abusers with implications for prevention and intervention strategies.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1002/ab.21768
Uncontrolled keywords: animal abuse, animal cruelty, adult perpetrators, offending behavior, victim empathy
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Emma Alleyne
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2018 15:05 UTC
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2021 11:06 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Alleyne, Emma:
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