Helicopter Parenting Is Great for Pets, Study Says

It's OK to be an affectionate, overprotective pet parent. Mikael Tigerström [CC by 2.0]/Flickr

Helicopter parenting, or hovering over your child's every move, is often criticized for being overprotective, but a recent study finds that this style of parenting is ideal for furry, four-legged children.

Scientists at California State University and the University of California found that the more neurotic and conscientious people are, the more attention and affection they give to their dogs and cats — and that's good for pets.

The researchers surveyed 1,000 pet owners to identify their key personality traits and nurturing styles and to determine whether they classify themselves as dog people, cat people, both or neither.

Almost 40 percent of participants reported they like dogs and cats equally, while 38 percent said they were dog people, 19 percent said they were cat people, and 3 percent favored neither.

The personality survey was based on both human and animal attachment assessments, including one that measures the "Big Five" character traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

Participants were also rated according to the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale, the most widely used instrument to assess our emotional attachments to animals. The scale measures both "anxious attachment" and "avoidant attachment."

Researchers discovered that those who scored highest in conscientiousness and neuroticism expressed the most affection for their pets.

They also found that participants scored high on anxious attachment and low on avoidant attachment, meaning they seek affection from their pets and desire close relationships with them.

"The fact that higher levels of neuroticism are associated with affection and anxious attachment suggests that people who score higher on that dimension may have high levels of affection and dependence on their pets, which may be a good thing for pets," said co-author Mikel Delgado, a doctoral student in psychology at University of California, Berkeley.

In other words, the qualities that make for overprotective, over involved parents, make for very affectionate pet parents.