Call for Papers: special issue on Humane Education and the Child-Animal Bond

Special Issue of Early Childhood Education Journal:

Humane Education and the Child-Animal Bond

The original definition of the word “humane” was to behave in ways that befit a human being. Over the past century, the term has expanded considerably and now includes human behaviors such as empathy, compassion, and altruism. Further, these behaviors are extended, not only toward humans but also to other life forms. The word “humane” frequently comes into use when the situation calls for supporting others, especially with respect to preventing damage, mitigating distress, and alleviating suffering.

Humane education is a deliberate effort to teach people about their duty of care for others. This responsibility extends to all human beings, the welfare of nonhuman animals, and the global environment. Viewed in this way, adults who promote positive interactions between young children and other living beings are humane educators. They include parents/families, early childhood teachers and caregivers, professionals in various fields committed to children, and community members with specialized expertise in human-animal interaction.

The premise of this special issue of Early Childhood Education is that accepting responsibility and learning to care for nonhuman living beings is a route to building compassion in young children. The bond between children and animals represents a unique form of interspecies attachment. Classic studies of attachment include observable behaviors such as seeking proximity, resisting separation, and treating the other as a source of emotional refueling. It can be argued that these behaviors are in evidence when children form a secure bond with an animal. Children spend time with animals, protest when they are separated, and turn to animals as safe havens when they are in distress. Decades of research suggest that the bonds between children and animals are regarded as particularly significant by children and families, affect all areas of children’s development (i.e., physical, cognitive, emotional, and social), and influence behavior throughout the life course. Connections with animals, particularly companion animals that cohabitate with children, feature prominently in children’s hopes, dreams, talk, original drawing/writing, and the choices they make in print and nonprint media. Nevertheless, research has just begun to address some of the complex questions about that demand fuller, more nuanced answers.

For example, how and why do behaviorally healthy relationships between children and animals succeed or fail? What evidence suggests that early experiences with animals shape later prosocial behaviors such as empathy, compassion, and altruism? What animal welfare considerations enter into these bonds to make them reciprocally rewarding for children and animals? How do children learn to become animal guardians/advocates rather than treat animals as playthings or make them targets of cruelty? How does a secure bond (or lack thereof) affect cognitive and affective functioning during early childhood? Which companion animals are best suited for different children and situations—and why? What can children learn from daily interactions with and care of animals in classrooms and schools? How can interacting with animals be therapeutic for children? How do professionals who work with young children include interactions with animals as part of their practice, including teachers who often are working with standardized curriculum and mandatory assessment/testing? What collaborative relationships with community organizations promote humane education in families and various early childhood programs? In addition to companion animals kept as family pets, how can we better understand other important connections with animals, such as children with disabilities who have service dogs or children who decide to help animals in need? What do children themselves have to say about the importance of animals in their lives?

The editors would be interested to receive some practical articles and project descriptions that describe how humane education is infused in ECE programs in other countries. How does the cultural context  determine/affect the child-animal bond and the perception/understanding of child-animal bond?  Within countries, it would be informative to gain a deeper understanding of diversity in perceptions of the child/animal bond in different communities, geographic areas (i.e., rural, urban, suburban),

This Special Issue of Early Childhood Education Journal will address all these aspects of humane education and the child/animal bond.


The four co-editors for the Special Issue have published extensively on humane education topics:

Mary Renck Jalongo, editor-in-chief of ECEJ from 1995-2019 and current editor of Springer Nature’s Educating the Young Child Book Series

Laura Bruneau, Adams State University, Department of Counselor Education, Alamosa Colorado

Amy Johnson, Oakland University, School of Nursing Center for Human Animal Interventions, Rochester Michigan

Tunde Szecsi, College of Education, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, Florida

Types of Manuscripts

For the purposes of the journal, we define the early childhood years as infancy-8 years of age. Any manuscript submitted should focus on that age group and professionals who specialize in working with the very young. The editors are receptive to reviews of research that include implications for early childhood practice. Original research—quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods—is welcomed. All research must conform to ethical standards, principles of informed consent, and contributors need to verify that the research has been approved by their Institutional Review Boards. We are interested in practical, research-based strategies that have been successfully implemented to teach humane education. Collaborative efforts that involve more than one institution, organization, and location will receive high priority for inclusion in the book. Qualitative approaches, such as interviews with children and samples of their drawings and/or writing that provide insight into their thinking about animals are welcomed.

General Manuscript Format

Articles should not exceed approximately 30 pages of 12-point print, Times New Roman typeface with everything double-spaced. This page count includes references, tables, figures, graphs, and child drawings or writings that authors choose to include. Please use the American Psychological Association Style guide to format the headings, tables/figures, and references. We are shifting to APA 7th edition, so please refer to Springer Nature’s guidelines at:  

Note that any photographs, children’s drawings, or children’s writing require signed permission forms.

Submission Deadlines

Please submit a 250-word abstract by July 30, 2021 to

Make sure that the article title is sufficiently specific and descriptive to set readers’ expectations for what the article will include. The abstract should be a brief description of the entire article rather than a review of the literature. For example, if writing about a humane education project, a typical structure would be: (1) needs assessment, (2) planning, (3) implementation, and (4) outcomes/evaluation. If the article is original research, it would need to include the research question, participants, type of research, data collection, data analysis, and the major findings.

The co-editors will respond promptly to your abstract. If it shows promise for producing a suitable article, they will inform you accordingly. However, acceptance of the abstract is not a guarantee that the completed manuscript will be accepted. The editors and reviewers need to review see the entire work before rendering a decision.

Completed manuscripts are due December 1, 2021. They would be submitted to the Early Childhood Education Journal’s Editorial Manager site at