Animal Science, Department of


First Advisor

Dr. Lisa Karr

Second Advisor

Dr. Jeffrey Stevens

Third Advisor

Dr. Lena Luck

Date of this Version

Fall 11-1-2023

Document Type



Pachunka, A. (2023). Students' Attitudes Towards Animals Influences Youth Development Constructs Based on Interactions with Different Animal Species Prior to College. M.S. Thesis. University of Nebraska. Lincoln, Nebraska.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Animal Science, Under the Supervision of Professor Lisa K. Karr. Lincoln, Nebraska: December 2023

Copyright (c) Allison K. Pachunka


Human-animal interactions (HAI) are commonplace in society and play a consequential role in a variety of situations such as companion animal ownership, agriculture, or youth programs such as 4-H or FFA. Interacting with animals has been shown to provide developmental benefits to children. Positive youth development (PYD), measured by the Five Cs Model, is a framework that focuses on fostering youth’s potential through positive activities which has been studied specifically in 4-H. However, this framework has not been applied to other organizations such as the National FFA Organization (FFA) or to other young adults with less formal interactions with animals. This study’s intent is to extend previous work to investigate whether HAI is associated with outcomes of PYD, whether participating in organized animal activities enhances these outcomes compared to those that interact with animals in a casual manner, and whether the species one interacts with alters elements of HAI. A survey was constructed using numerous Likert scales and multiple-choice questions to capture animal experience, latent constructs measuring HAI (attachment, attitude, and commitment), participation in youth development organizations, and outcomes of PYD (competence, connection, confidence, character, caring, and contribution). Respondents were undergraduate students between the ages of 17 and 24 enrolled at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR), to capture the 4-H and FFA population, and the Department of Psychology (SONA), to capture nonparticipants. A total of 432 responses were received. Results demonstrate a significant (p < 0.05) association between the attitudes towards animal use and PYD constructs competence, connection, confidence, character, and caring. Care given to one’s animal was significantly associated with character. Attachment to one’s animal was significant in predicting connection. There were significant differences in constructs of HAI depending on the species one had the most experience with or viewed as the most important. Those that interacted with cattle had different attitudes towards animal use than those that worked with dogs, cats, and horses. More research is needed to evaluate what aspects of animal experiences affect one’s attitudes towards animal use as well as what aspects of participation in youth development organizations lead to PYD outcomes.