Is animal cruelty a "red flag" for family violence? Investigating co-occurring violence toward children, artners, and pets

Sarah Degue, David Dilillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

82 Scopus citations


Cross-reporting legislation, which permits child and animal welfare investigators to refer families with substantiated child maltreatment or animal cruelty for investigation by parallel agencies, has recently been adopted in several U.S. jurisdictions. The current study sheds light on the underlying assumption of these policiesĝ€"that animal cruelty and family violence commonly co-occur. Exposure to family violence and animal cruelty is retrospectively assessed using a sample of 860 college students. Results suggest that animal abuse may be a red flag indicative of family violence in the home. Specifically, about 60% of participants who have witnessed or perpetrated animal cruelty as a child also report experiences with child maltreatment or domestic violence. Differential patterns of association were revealed between childhood victimization experiences and the type of animal cruelty exposure reported. This study extends current knowledge of the links between animal- and human-directed violence and provides initial support for the premise of cross-reporting legislation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1036-1056
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2009



  • Abuse
  • Animal
  • Child
  • Family
  • Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology

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