Helicopter parents, defined as those who hover over their children's every waking moment, are often criticised for being overprotective, but a new study says this style of parenting could be what's right for your pet.
Using a web-based survey, researchers hailing from UC Berkeley and California State University, East Bay assessed nurturing styles of over 1,000 participants that identified themselves as dog lovers, cat lovers, both or neither.
The most assiduous and neurotic of the participants also turned out to be those who expressed the most affection for their furry, four-legged friends, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.
"The fact that higher levels of neuroticism are associated with affection and anxious attachment suggests that people who score higher on that dimension may have high levels of affection and dependence on their pets, which may be a good thing for pets," says co-author Mikel Delgado, a doctoral candidate in psychology at UC Berkeley.
The study is thought to be the first to derive a positive co-relation between human neuroticism and pets' well-being, says co-author Gretchen Reevy, a psychologist at CSU East Bay.
Participants were recruited on Craigslist, Facebook and via Reddit's pet-related content.
Of those who responded to the survey, almost 40% described themselves as loving both dogs and cats equally, 38% said they were dog lovers and 19% described themselves as cat lovers.
Only 3% of respondents expressed no preference between dogs and cats. The study could also be one of the first to incorporate human attachment theory with being a dog lover, cat lover, both or neither.
The questionnaire assessed how participants fit what are largely considered to be the five predominant human characteristics: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
Participants were also assessed according to the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale, and a separate questionnaire measured the strength of the bonds they share with their animals.
Those whose attachment reached the point of anxiety were mainly young cat lovers, according to the study.
On the flipside, participants whose responses indicated distant attachment did not need the same sort of reassurance from their animals as the aforementioned, but this trait was hard to come by among dog and cat lovers.
"We will investigate further whether greater affection for and greater anxious attachment to one's pet, and neuroticism, are associated with better care and understanding of the pet's needs," says Reevy.