The PAW Lab conducts research in several areas of human-animal interaction related to child and adolescent development and family dynamics. Our lab takes a strengths-based, developmental systems approach to assessing HAI. Our work is interdisciplinary and collaborative, using innovative, multi-method designs to understand the role of animals in family life.
HAI and Social Anxiety in Adolescence
Social anxiety is one of the most critical mental health challenges facing youth, particularly during adolescence. The PAW Lab conducts research on the role of pets and animal-assisted interventions in mitigating the effects of social anxiety and in supporting thriving and resilience during adolescence.
The Teen & Dog Study
The Teen & Dog Study is assessing the effects of companion dogs on adolescents with social anxiety and their families. This study will collect quantitative, qualitative, and psychophysiological longitudinal data from adolescents and their parents. The Teen & Dog Study is funded by the National Institutes of Health (R01).
Dogs and Adolescent Social Anxiety (DASA) Study
The DASA Study is tested the use of innovative physiological and activity tracking methodologies to explore the role of dogs in measuring adolescent anxiety. Phase 1 pilot data collection for the DASA Study was funded by the Society for Companion Animal Studies, and Phase 2 data collection was funded by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. Read about the results of the DASA study here.
HAI and Positive Youth Development
Human-animal interaction can provide an opportunity for developing positive social skills and fostering resilience in adolescence. Understanding how HAI fits into the developmental context for diverse children and adolescence is a key area of scholarship for the PAW Lab.
Parental Behavior, Human-Animal Interaction, and Adolescent Development
The goal of this study is to longitudinally assess how youth-pet relationship quality may predict adolescent health and development, and to explore how parents influence the ways in which pets are integrated into the family system. This study is being conducted in collaboration with the Youth, Media, and Well-Being lab at the Wellesley Centers for Women, and is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NIH/NICHD).
Read more about the results of this study:
Longitudinal associations between pet relationship quality and socio-emotional functioning in early adolescence
From regulating emotions to less lonely screen time: parents’ qualitative perspectives of the benefits and challenges of adolescent pet companionship
Associations between pet care responsibility, companion animal interactions, and family relationships during COVID-19
Companion animal relationships and adolescent loneliness during COVID-19.
The role of pet companionship in online and offline social interactions in adolescence
Human-Animal Interaction and Trajectories of Adolescent Development
The goal of this research is to assess the relationship between pet ownership and demographics, cultural and ethnic identity, social environment, and developmental outcomes over time through analysis of a large nationally-representative dataset. This study is funded by the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute.
Read more about the results of this study:
Companion animals and the relationship between peer victimization and emotion regulation in youth
Companion animals and profiles of peer social behavior in adolescence
Profiles of family pet ownership during the COVID-19 pandemic
Companion animals and adolescent stress and adaptive coping during the COVID-19 pandemic
Human-Animal-Environment Interactions as a Context for Positive Youth Development
Dr. Mueller serves as a collaborator on an ongoing longitudinal study of animal, horticulture, and nature-based interventions as an approach to supporting youth self-regulatory skills in special education environments. This study is led by the Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver. For more information and to download the study’s comprehensive documentation report, click here.
How to Get Involved
Student Research Assistants: If you are a Tufts student who is interested in becoming involved with the Tufts PAW Lab, please email us at TuftsPAWLab@tufts.edu.
Dr. Mueller will be accepting applications for a PhD student position starting in Fall 2024.
For more information on the position, please see: https://sites.tufts.edu/tpawlab/opportunities-with-tpaw/
For more information on the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University’s PhD program, please visit: https://vet.tufts.edu/phd-biomedical-sciences
Applications are currently being accepted for the M.S. in Animals and Public Policy program. For more information, please visit: https://grad.vet.tufts.edu/ms-animals-and-public-policy/
Media inquiries: For media inquires related to our lab’s work, please email Megan.Mueller@tufts.edu
Animal-Assisted Interventions: For more information about the Tufts Paws for People therapy animal group, please visit http://hai.tufts.edu/paws
For all other inquiries, please email us at TuftsPAWLab@tufts.edu.