Animal Abuse as Dirty Play
Animal abuse by children is generally regarded as an impulsive psychological act without instrumental bene t. This research takes a sociological approach to the topic, exploring the deliberate harm of animals as a particular kind of unsavory or dirty play that is part of adolescent socialization. Interviews were conducted with twenty- ve college undergraduate students who admitted to abusing animals earlier in their lives. Respondents considered their prior acts a form of everyday play having serious and thrilling overtones. At a deeper level, their abuse was an extraordinary form of play in that they also were appropriating adult culture. Because their appropriations stemmed from a wider culture racked with inconsistencies about the proper treatment of animals, respondents’ presentations of self were split between those who no longer spoke of abuse as fun and admonished themselves for having done this and those who still clung to the idea that harming animals was fun and were seemingly untroubled by their former acts.
Until recently, understanding violence toward animals remained the sole province of psychologists and animal welfare advocates (e.g., Ascione and Arkow 1999). Their approach sees animal abuse as an impulsive act that re ects psychopathological problems in the offender. In one typical psychiatric study (Tapia 1971), the author suggests that children who are cruel to animals suffer from hyperactivity, short attention span, irritability, temper, destructiveness, and brain damage leading to poor impulse control. Like enuresis and re setting, animal cruelty indicates one more sign of “impulsive character development” (Felthous 1980:169). As such, the act of abuse has no social context and is likened to angry or irritable aggression that provides an emotional and perhaps rewarding release to aggressors. From a psychological perspective, animal abuse provides sought after emotion and reward for two reasons. One argument holds that animal abuse serves to displace frustration by making the aggressor feel better. The displacement approach to abuse sees it as serving no purpose other than hurting animals and venting anger. In fact, until recently mental health experts supported the therapeutic value of mundane animal abuse as a “healthy” form of displacement. Psychologists argued that Direct all correspondence to Arnold Arluke, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, 500 Holmes Hall, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115-5000; e-mail: ProfArluke@aol.com.
Symbolic Interaction, Volume 25, Number 4, pages 405–430, ISSN 0195-6086; online ISSN 1533-8665. © 2002 by the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction. All rights reserved. Send requests for permission to reprint to: Rights and Permissions, University of California Press, Journals Division, 2000 Center St., Ste. 303, Berkeley, CA 94704-1223.
Volume 25, Number 4, 2002
dogs, in particular, could serve as “satisfactory victims” for children, in need of power, to harm. “The child who is commanded all day long may be commander over his dog. The child who is full of resentment over what he believes is his bad treatment by adults may kick at his dog. Though this use of a dog, if carried to extremes, is not exactly commendable, there is some therapeutic effect for children when indulged in within reason” (Bossard and Boll 1966:128). A second, increasingly common psychological approach to abuse posits an “angry child” with “destructive energy” that needs to be released. Unlike the displacement model that sees abuse as a safety valve to reduce internal pressure and further aggression, the graduation model argues that attacks on animals represent early stages of a progression of aggressive responses that mature into later violence toward humans. Humane organizations, in particular, are quick to raise the specter of future Jeffrey Dahmers when asked to weigh...
References: Adler, Patricia A. and Peter Adler. 1998. Peer Power: Preadolescent Culture and Identity. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. American Psychiatric Association (APA). 1994. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed. Washington, DC: APA. Arluke, Arnold. 1988. “Sacri cial Symbolism in Animal Experimentation: Object or Pet?” Anthrozoos 2:98–117. Arluke, Arnold and Frederick Hafferty. 1996. “From Apprehension to Fascination with ‘Dog Lab’: The Uses of Absolutions by Medical Students.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 25:201–25. Arluke, Arnold, Jack Levin, Carter Luke, and Frank Ascione. 1999. “The Relationship of Animal Abuse to Violence and Other Forms of Antisocial Behavior.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 14:963–75. Arluke, Arnold and Clinton Sanders 1996. Regarding Animals. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Ascione, Frank. 1993. “Children Who Are Cruel to Animals.” Anthrozoos 5:226–47. Ascione, Frank and Phil Arkow, eds. 1999. Child Abuse, Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press. Athens, Lonnie. 1989. The Creation of Dangerous Violent Criminals. London: Routledge. Bok, Sissela. 1982. Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation. New York: Pantheon. Borman, Kathryn and Nancy Lippincott. 1982. “Cognition and Culture: Two Perspectives on ‘Free Play.’ ” p. 123–42 in The Social Life of Children in a Changing Society, edited by K. Borman. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Bossard, James and Eleanor Boll. 1966. The Sociology of Child Development. 4th ed. New York: Harper and Row. Chick, Garry and Jon Donlon. 1992. “Going Out on a Limn: Geertz’s ‘Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cock ght’ and the Anthropological Study of Play.” Play and Culture 5:233–45. Clifford, James. 1992. “Traveling Cultures.” Pp. 96–117 in Cultural Studies, edited by L. Grossberg, C. Nelson, and P. Treichler. New York: Routledge. Corsaro, William. 1992. “Interpretive Reproduction in Children’s Peer Cultures.” Social Psychology Quarterly 55:160–77. ———. 1997. The Sociology of Childhood. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Derber, Charles. 1996. The Wilding of America: Greed, Violence, and the New American Dream. New York: Worth. Felthous, Alan. 1980. “Aggression against Cats, Dogs, and People.” Child Psychiatry and Human Development 10:169–77. Felthous, Alan and Stephen Kellert. 1987. “Childhood Cruelty to Animals and Later Aggression against People: A Review.” American Journal of Psychiatry 144:711–17. Fine, Gary Alan. 1986. “The Dirty Play of Little Boys.” Society 24:63–67. ———. 1988. “Good Children and Dirty Play.” Play and Culture 1:43–56. ———. 1991. “Justifying Fun: Why We Do Not Teach Exotic Dance in High School.” Play and Culture 4:87–99.
Volume 25, Number 4, 2002
———. 1992. “The Depths of Deep Play: The Rhetoric and Resources of Morally Controversial Leisure.” Play and Culture 5:246–51. Fine, Gary Alan and Kent Sandstrom. 1988. Knowing Children: Participant Observation with Children. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Geertz, Clifford. 1972. “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cock ght.” Daedalus 101:1–37. Gerbner, George. 1995. Animal Issues in the Media. Universal City, CA: Ark Trust. Goffman, Erving. 1961. Asylums. Garden City, N.J.: Anchor. ———. 1967. Interaction Ritual. Chicago: Aldine. Goodney, S. 1997. “Animal Abuse and Personal Histories.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Toronto, Canada. ———. 2002. “Accounting for Abuse.” Forthcoming in Society and Animals. James, Allison and Alan Prout, eds. 1990. Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood. London: Falmer Press. Katz, Jack. 1988. Seduction of Crime. New York: Basic Books. Kellert, Stephen and Alan Felthous. 1985. “Childhood Cruelty toward Animals among Criminals and Noncriminals.” Human Relations 38:1113– 29. Koller, R. 1988. Humor and Society: Explorations in the Sociology of Humor. Houston: Cap and Gown Press. Kraybill, Donald. 2001. The Riddle of Amish Culture. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Levin, Jack and Arnold Arluke. 1986. Gossip: The Inside Scoop. New York: Plenum Press. Lightfoot, Cynthia. 1997. The Culture of Adolescent Risk Taking. New York: Guilford Press. Mead, George Herbert. 1934. Mind, Self, and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Mechling, Jay. 1989. “ ‘Banana Canon’ and Other Folk Traditions between Human and Nonhuman Animals.” Western Folklore 48:312–23. Melson, Gail. 2001. Why the Wild Things Are: Animals in the Lives of Children. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Milgram, Stanley. 1974. Obedience to Authority. New York: Harper and Row. Miller, Karla and John Knutson. 1977. “Reports of Severe Physical Punishment and Exposure to Animal Cruelty by Inmates Convicted of Felonies and by University Students.” Child Abuse and Neglect 21:59–82. Morrow, Virginia. 1998. “My Animals and Other Family: Children’s Perspectives on Their Relationships with Companion Animals.” Anthrozoos 11:218–26. Moulton, Carol, Michael Kaufmann, and Judee Filip, eds. 1991. Report on the Summit on Violence towards Children and Animals. Englewood, CO: American Humane Association. Piaget, Jean. 1962. Play, Dreams, and Imitation in Childhood. New York: Norton. Rowan, Andrew. 1993. “Cruelty to Animals.” Anthrozoos 6:218–20. Scheff, Thomas. 1990. Microsociology: Discourse, Emotion, and Social Structure. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Solot, Dorian and Arnold Arluke. 1997. “Learning the Scientist’s Role: Animal Dissection in Middle School.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 26:28–54. Tapia, Fernando. 1971. “Children Who Are Cruel to Animals.” Child Psychiatry and Human Development 2:70–77. Thorne, Barrie. 1993. Gender Play: Girls and Boys in School. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document