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postgraduate thesis: Examining the environmental and cultural factors in human-animal interaction in Hong Kong : a mixed methods study

TitleExamining the environmental and cultural factors in human-animal interaction in Hong Kong : a mixed methods study
Authors
Advisors
Advisor(s):Wong, PWC
Issue Date2017
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Yu, W. R. [喻慧敏]. (2017). Examining the environmental and cultural factors in human-animal interaction in Hong Kong : a mixed methods study. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR.
AbstractHong Kong is a densely populated city. Its average living space per capita is one of the smallest and its housing market is the least affordable in the world; many of its citizens have to work long hours to meet the expectations of a highly-competitive work environment. These environmental constraints often act as a deterrent to those who otherwise might wish to keep a non-human animal as companion in the household. In Hong Kong, the rate of companion animal ownership is around 10.2%, a much lower rate in comparison with other developed countries such as the United States (US), Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom (UK), which are from around 40% to over 60%. Companion animal ownership has been found to have a positive impact on owners’ physical and psychological well-being through increased levels of physical and social activities. However, environmental and cultural factors, such as owners’ urban or rural residence, geographic features and cultural attitudes towards animals are also suggested to be significant confounding variables affecting companion animal ownership and its impact. In Hong Kong, due to its highly congested environment in both the private and public arena, whether companion animal owners can enjoy the same benefits from the human-animal relationship is in question. For instance, dog walking, which is considered an important factor in promoting owners’ physical health of, might not be so easily achieved in Hong Kong, as dogs are commonly prohibited from many public places. In addition to the examination of the effects of the human-animal relationship specifically between companion animals and owners, the impacts of such a unique relationship have also been examined in therapeutic settings. Hong Kong Chinese are generally reluctant to seek professional help and consider that ‘talking therapy’ is not very useful because our culture does not encourage people to articulate and express their innermost feelings to people outside their extended family system. Informal social support, in which someone can understand them ‘without too many words’ is often preferred. Additionally, seeking professional help, such as counselling, often has the stigma attached of being an indicator of problems or even psychiatric issues. Since companion animals are perceived as being non-judgemental, provide unconditional acceptance and can play the role of a neutral social lubricant in facilitating social interaction, it would be of great interest to examine whether the inclusion of therapy animals in therapeutic settings might facilitate the intervention process and enhance the therapeutic outcomes for Hong Kong Chinese. The objective of this thesis was to explore the impact of human-animal interactions in both the community and in therapeutic settings in Hong Kong. Three pilot studies were conducted. Study 1 was a web-based cross-sectional survey to explore the physical and psychosocial well-being of Hong Kong people with or without companion animals. Study 2 and study 3 were both pilot evaluation programmes for withdrawn youths and solo community-dwelling elderly respectively. Both projects aimed to facilitate the participants in making or re-making connections to social or community systems with the assistance of therapy dogs. In the community setting, we found statistically significant results to support the notion that companion animals enhance the human-human interaction with significant others among the owners; however, we did not find statistically significant results to show the differences between owners’ and non-owners’ physical well-being. Interestingly, but sadly, it was found that owners were reported to be physically less healthy than non-owners, although owners were found to walk more. It was speculated that dog walking could be a stress inducing (instead of stress reducing) activity due to the animal-unfriendly environmental infrastructure in Hong Kong. In studies 2 and 3, comparing participants receiving treatment with or without animal-assisted therapy (AAT) components, AAT did not seem to produce an additional impact on the psychological well-being in either the withdrawn youth groups or the solo community-dwelling elderly. Nonetheless, the inclusion of therapy dogs in the programme did play an important role in motivating the at-risk youth group in taking the first step to seek help. Around a quarter stated that they would not, or probably would not, have participated in the intervention programme if it were not for the inclusion of the therapy dog. In the third study, with the solo community-dwelling elderly, the group with the therapy dog seemed to facilitate their connection with their families and friends more, compared with the group without the therapy dog, although the difference was not statistically significant. In general, this thesis has suggested a tendency for companion animals to contribute to the enhancement of human-human relationships in both community and therapeutic settings in the unique Hong Kong context. In comparison with other empirical studies from the West, these studies tend to suggest that the direct effects of human-animal relationships are less obvious; however, companion animals can help to strengthen our connection with others in Hong Kong, where interpersonal relationships are rather distant. In the therapeutic setting, therapy animals can be an attraction that motivates isolated and lonely individuals to re-engage with significant social ties. These studies’ findings are limited by their exploratory nature, but they help to identify the environmental and cultural differences in studying human-animal relationships and the role that animals can play in our social well-being, in both the community and therapeutic settings.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectHuman-animal relationships - China - Hong Kong
Dept/ProgramSocial Work and Social Administration
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/255461

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.advisorWong, PWC-
dc.contributor.authorYu, Wai-man, Rose-
dc.contributor.author喻慧敏-
dc.date.accessioned2018-07-05T07:43:38Z-
dc.date.available2018-07-05T07:43:38Z-
dc.date.issued2017-
dc.identifier.citationYu, W. R. [喻慧敏]. (2017). Examining the environmental and cultural factors in human-animal interaction in Hong Kong : a mixed methods study. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR.-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/255461-
dc.description.abstractHong Kong is a densely populated city. Its average living space per capita is one of the smallest and its housing market is the least affordable in the world; many of its citizens have to work long hours to meet the expectations of a highly-competitive work environment. These environmental constraints often act as a deterrent to those who otherwise might wish to keep a non-human animal as companion in the household. In Hong Kong, the rate of companion animal ownership is around 10.2%, a much lower rate in comparison with other developed countries such as the United States (US), Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom (UK), which are from around 40% to over 60%. Companion animal ownership has been found to have a positive impact on owners’ physical and psychological well-being through increased levels of physical and social activities. However, environmental and cultural factors, such as owners’ urban or rural residence, geographic features and cultural attitudes towards animals are also suggested to be significant confounding variables affecting companion animal ownership and its impact. In Hong Kong, due to its highly congested environment in both the private and public arena, whether companion animal owners can enjoy the same benefits from the human-animal relationship is in question. For instance, dog walking, which is considered an important factor in promoting owners’ physical health of, might not be so easily achieved in Hong Kong, as dogs are commonly prohibited from many public places. In addition to the examination of the effects of the human-animal relationship specifically between companion animals and owners, the impacts of such a unique relationship have also been examined in therapeutic settings. Hong Kong Chinese are generally reluctant to seek professional help and consider that ‘talking therapy’ is not very useful because our culture does not encourage people to articulate and express their innermost feelings to people outside their extended family system. Informal social support, in which someone can understand them ‘without too many words’ is often preferred. Additionally, seeking professional help, such as counselling, often has the stigma attached of being an indicator of problems or even psychiatric issues. Since companion animals are perceived as being non-judgemental, provide unconditional acceptance and can play the role of a neutral social lubricant in facilitating social interaction, it would be of great interest to examine whether the inclusion of therapy animals in therapeutic settings might facilitate the intervention process and enhance the therapeutic outcomes for Hong Kong Chinese. The objective of this thesis was to explore the impact of human-animal interactions in both the community and in therapeutic settings in Hong Kong. Three pilot studies were conducted. Study 1 was a web-based cross-sectional survey to explore the physical and psychosocial well-being of Hong Kong people with or without companion animals. Study 2 and study 3 were both pilot evaluation programmes for withdrawn youths and solo community-dwelling elderly respectively. Both projects aimed to facilitate the participants in making or re-making connections to social or community systems with the assistance of therapy dogs. In the community setting, we found statistically significant results to support the notion that companion animals enhance the human-human interaction with significant others among the owners; however, we did not find statistically significant results to show the differences between owners’ and non-owners’ physical well-being. Interestingly, but sadly, it was found that owners were reported to be physically less healthy than non-owners, although owners were found to walk more. It was speculated that dog walking could be a stress inducing (instead of stress reducing) activity due to the animal-unfriendly environmental infrastructure in Hong Kong. In studies 2 and 3, comparing participants receiving treatment with or without animal-assisted therapy (AAT) components, AAT did not seem to produce an additional impact on the psychological well-being in either the withdrawn youth groups or the solo community-dwelling elderly. Nonetheless, the inclusion of therapy dogs in the programme did play an important role in motivating the at-risk youth group in taking the first step to seek help. Around a quarter stated that they would not, or probably would not, have participated in the intervention programme if it were not for the inclusion of the therapy dog. In the third study, with the solo community-dwelling elderly, the group with the therapy dog seemed to facilitate their connection with their families and friends more, compared with the group without the therapy dog, although the difference was not statistically significant. In general, this thesis has suggested a tendency for companion animals to contribute to the enhancement of human-human relationships in both community and therapeutic settings in the unique Hong Kong context. In comparison with other empirical studies from the West, these studies tend to suggest that the direct effects of human-animal relationships are less obvious; however, companion animals can help to strengthen our connection with others in Hong Kong, where interpersonal relationships are rather distant. In the therapeutic setting, therapy animals can be an attraction that motivates isolated and lonely individuals to re-engage with significant social ties. These studies’ findings are limited by their exploratory nature, but they help to identify the environmental and cultural differences in studying human-animal relationships and the role that animals can play in our social well-being, in both the community and therapeutic settings. -
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.rightsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.-
dc.subject.lcshHuman-animal relationships - China - Hong Kong-
dc.titleExamining the environmental and cultural factors in human-animal interaction in Hong Kong : a mixed methods study-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineSocial Work and Social Administration-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-
dc.date.hkucongregation2018-
dc.identifier.mmsid991044019486503414-

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