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The Psychological Relationship Between Animal Abuse & Adolescents in the Judicial System

Autor:   •  March 8, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  2,771 Words (12 Pages)  •  1,524 Views

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All fifty States have legislation relating to animal abuse. Most States categorize it as a misdemeanor offense, and 30 States also have instituted felony-level statutes for certain forms of cruelty to animals. However, legal definitions of animal abuse, and even the types of animals that are covered by these statutes, differ from State to State (Ascione and Lockwood, 2001; Frasch et al., 1999; Lacroix, 1998). The research literature also fails to yield a consistent definition of animal abuse or cruelty to animals; however, the following definition captures features common to most attempts to define this behavior: "socially unacceptable behavior that intentionally causes unnecessary pain, suffering, or distress to and/or death of an animal" (Ascione, 1993:228).

This definition excludes practices that may cause harm to animals yet are socially condoned (e.g., legal hunting, certain agricultural and veterinary practices). Because the status of a particular animal may vary from one culture to another, the definition takes into account the social contexts that help determine what is considered animal abuse. For the purposes of this review, the animals that are victims of abuse are most often vertebrates because this is the category of animals to which are attributed the greatest capacity for experiencing and displaying pain and distress. The forms of abuse to which animals may be subjected are parallel to the forms of child maltreatment, which may lead a child to become an abuser of animals. Animals may be physically or sexually abused, may be seriously neglected, and, some might argue, may be psychologically abused.

Animal abuse and interpersonal violence toward humans share common characteristics: both types of victims are living creatures, have a capacity for experiencing pain and distress, can display physical signs of their pain and distress (with which humans could empathize), and may die as a result of inflicted injuries. Given these commonalties, it is not surprising that early research in this area, much of it using retrospective assessment, examined the relation between

Animal abuse may vary in frequency, severity, and chronicity and range from the developmentally immature teasing of animals (e.g., a toddler pulling a kitten along by the tail) to serious animal torture (e.g., stealing neighborhood pets and setting them on fire). Unfortunately, most assessments of cruelty to animals lack a scaling of these important differences. One exception is the Interview for Antisocial Behavior (LAB) developed by Kazdin and Esveldt-Dawson (1986). Although it was created before the 1987 revision of the DSM, this instrument assesses 30 forms of antisocial behavior, several of which reflect the current CD symptom listings (established in 1994). The LAB has a number of positive features, including both parent-and self-report forms and ratings of problem severity and chronicity.

Cruelty to animals is all too often

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