Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis


Department of Psychological Science

Thesis Type

Honors College, College of Arts and Science Honors

First Advisor

Kelly Rohan

Second Advisor

Erin Morris

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Pinel


pet attachment, life events, stress-buffering, college students, attachment theory


The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lifestyles of college students over the past 3+ years. This study assessed the role of pet attachment as a stress-buffer in college students by (1) determining if there is a significant association between pet attachment and several mental health outcomes: perceived stress, COVID-19-related stress, depression symptoms, and impact of recent life events; and (2) examining whether pet attachment interacts with impact of recent life events to predict perceived stress, COVID-19-related stress, and depression symptoms. College students aged 18 or older who identified as pet owners and/or reported daily interactions with a pet they live with were eligible. The sample (N = 112) was primarily white (91.1%), non-Hispanic/Latino(a) (96.4%), single (95.5%), and female-identified at birth (89.3%). Participants completed the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS), Life Experiences Survey (LES), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), Perceived Stress Questionnaire (PSQ), COVID-19 Student Stress Questionnaire (CSSQ), and Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). Pet attachment on the LAPS was not significantly correlated with LES, CES-D, PSS, PSQ, or CSSQ score. In hierarchical regression models, the interaction of LAPS and impact of life events (LES score) was significant in predicting CES-D, PSS, and PSQ score, after controlling for sex assigned at birth. For all three outcomes, students with relatively low pet attachment showed comparable depression and stress scores regardless of whether they endorsed more negative, average, or positive impact of recent life events. Compared to students with low pet attachment, students with relatively high pet attachment showed higher depression and stress scores with more negative impact of recent life events and lower depression and stress scores with more positive impact of recent life events. Results suggest that students with higher pet attachment styles were more strongly influenced by both positive and negative life events, with potential mood enhancing and exacerbating effects, respectively. This study is limited by the cross-sectional design, homogenous sample, and lack of social support/attachment measures pertaining to humans.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.