School of Health in Social Science

Childhood cruelty to animals

We want to understand why children are cruel to animals. We investigate the psychological and social risk factors, and currently have an innovative research project developed with the Scottish SPCA.

Longitudinal study into children’s socioemotional wellbeing, exposure to violence, pet ownership, and animal crueltyThis project is in collaboration with Dr Shelby MacDonald at Virginia Commonwealth University, USA and Roxanne Hawkins at the University of West of Scotland. It is a secondary data analysis project of a US data set on families who have experienced domestic violence, to investigate the role of animal cruelty in these circumstances.


Vets’ experiences of treating non-accidental injury: The role of families and children
This is an online survey in collaboration with the Scottish SPCA and the UK Links Group that aims to gather contemporary evidence of the types of non-accidental injuries treated by vets in the community, the contexts of non-accidental injuries, the roles of different family members, and the challenges these pose for vets’ professional practice.


Animal Guardians

Photograph of a girl hugging a dog
This is a current evidence-based intervention developed with the Scottish SPCA and aimed at children who have been cruel to animals.

Investigating predictors of cruelty

Photograph of girl with her hands around a cat's neck
Projects examining the psychological and social risk factors for childhood and adolescent cruelty to animals.