Children who experience Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) draw on a range of strategies to manage the complex dynamics of family life. This article explored children’s experiences of their relationships with pets and other animals, considering how children understood these relationships.
This qualitative study is based on semi-structured interviews and visual methods-based research with 22 children (aged 9–17), drawn from a larger study on how children cope with DVA. The data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis.
Five themes are discussed: Part of the family explores how children positioned animals as relational beings who occupied an important place in their lives; caring for animals considers the reciprocal caring relationship children described; listening and support details how children interacted with animals to allow themselves to feel more heard and supported; in the theme control and abuse, we consider children’s experiences of perpetrators’ use of companion animals as part of a pattern of abuse and control; and in disruption, uncertainty and loss, we discuss how children feel and relate to their animals when leaving situations of domestic abuse.
The implications of our analysis are considered in relation to providing support for children impacted by domestic abuse, and the importance of ensuring companion animals are provided for in housing policy and planning for domestic abuse survivors.