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This paper reviews the results of a study of 267 children in the 2nd, 5th, 8th, and 11th grades. A battery of tests was used to examine children's knowledge and attitudes towards animals, and behavioral contacts with animals. A typology of basic attitudes towards animals and appropriate scales was employed. Children's knowledge and attitudes towards animals were also compared to those of adults 18 years of age and over. Major differences occurred among children distinguished by age, sex, ethnicity, and urban/rural residence. Additionally, significant knowledge and attitude variations occurred among diverse animal-related activity groups (e.g., among children who hunted, birdwatched, learned about animals in school). Perhaps the most important finding was the identification of three stages in the development of children's perceptions of animals. The transition from 6 to 9 years of age primarily involved major changes in affective, emotional relationships to animals. The change from 10 to 13 years of age was marked by a major increase in cognitive, factual understanding and knowledge of animals. The shift from 13 to 16 years of age witnessed a dramatic broadening in ethical concern and ecological appreciation of animals and the natural environment.


This study was funded by grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and G.R. Dodge Foundation.