Research (Baldry, 2003; Flynn, 1999, 2000a; Henry, 2004) has linked witnessing abuse to nonhuman animals with the committal of such acts. This study reports frequency data based on adolescents' self-reported witnessing of animal abuse and involvement in animal-directed behaviors. The study investigates associations between witnessing abuse and engaging in both positive and negative animal-directed behaviors. 281 adolescents, 12-18 years of age, completed measures of animal cruelty and the humane treatment of animals. As predicted, the study found a history of witnessing animal abuse associated with significantly higher levels of animal cruelty. The study reported significantly higher levels of cruelty for those who had witnessed a friend, relative, parent, or sibling abuse an animal and significantly lower levels for those who had witnessed a stranger abuse an animal. Participants who "Frequently" witnessed animal abuse reported significantly higher levels of cruelty than those who viewed abuse "A few times". There was no association found between humane treatment of animals and the witnessing of animal abuse. Positive influences, peer mentors and humane education, would help to combat this cycle of abuse.
Recognizing the importance of increasing the levels of children's humane behavior toward animals other than humans relates to the developing of valid and reliable measures of such behavior. This study reports the psychometric properties of the Children's Treatment of Animals Questionnaire (CTAQ), which assesses children's humane behavior toward nonhuman animals. The findings, based on self-reports by 61 elementary school children (25 boys; 36 girls), showed that the 13-item scale has adequate internal consistency. In addition, comparing two administrations of the scale over a five-week period demonstrated good test-retest reliability. The scale's convergent validity was demonstrated with significant correlations between responses on the CTAQ and two previously validated measures of empathy. The study concluded that the CTAQ is a valid and reliable measure for assessing the degree to which children's behavior toward nonhuman animals is humane. Determining the sensitivity of the measure to change (following humane education) and the predictive validity of the measure (identification of children who are cruel to animals) will require further research.