Fostering secure attachment: Experiences of animal companions in the foster home

Sam Carr, Benjamin Rockett

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter in a published conference proceeding


One of the cornerstones of the foster care system is the assumption that the provision of a warm, nurturing, stable and secure relationship with a foster caregiver has the capacity to change the developmental course of children who have experienced inadequate early care (Joseph et al., 2014). It is therefore important to build a better understanding of how foster families might facilitate the development of secure attachment relationships, especially in the face of the challenging expectations, resistance, and working models of attachment that children often bring with them (Nowacki, & Schoelmerich, 2010). This paper responded to recent calls (e.g., Rockett & Carr, 2014) for further exploration of the ways in which animals in foster family homes can facilitate this process. The study employed attachment theory as a lens through which to explore children’s relationships with animal companions in the context of long-term foster care. Inductive and deductive thematic analyses of longitudinal case study data from eight children and their foster families revealed (a) that children’s relationships with animal companions often satisfied attachment-related functions (e.g., safe haven, secure base, separation distress), suggesting that animals were experienced as attachment figures in their own right, and (b) that animal companions also helped to soften perceptions of foster caregivers, facilitating opportunities for the development of closeness in the child-foster caregiver dyad. Animals in the foster home may play an important role in helping children to find and develop secure, warm, and loving relationships in foster family homes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Attachment Conference 2017 - Book of Abstracts
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2017


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