Childhood maltreatment and the developing brain: Profiles of executive function and the predictive value of maltreatment variables
AdvisorMeissen, Gregory J.
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There is a strong reciprocal link between environmental experiences and children’s cognitive development (Brocki & Bohlin, 2004). One such environmental experience, with a widely recognized negative impact on cognitive development, is maltreatment in childhood (Diaz & Petersen, 2014). Long-term outcomes of cognitive development among maltreatment populations has historically examined intellectual functioning and language development. Limited research exists that examines deficits in executive functioning among pediatric populations with histories of maltreatment. This retrospective chart review, which included a total of 88 cases, examined whether maltreated children demonstrate greater impairment on measures of executive function than observed in samples of typical norms. Cases selected for this study required objective documentation of maltreatment. Further analyses examined whether specific maltreatment variables could reliably predict poor executive function performance. This sample of maltreated children demonstrated significantly greater impairment as compared to rates of impairment observed in typical norm samples. In utero exposure was found to be the only maltreatment variable to significantly predict executive function performance, although half of the findings were contrary to what had been hypothesized. Moreover, the utility of in utero exposure as a predictive variable was found to be low. Unique demographic and maltreatment characteristics of the current sample are presented, which provide directions for further research. Legal implications of research examining the effects of in utero exposure are acknowledged, which illustrate the need for policies that minimize stigma and promote engagement in healthcare systems by pregnant women who suffer from substance use disorders.
Thesis (Ph.D.)-- Wichita State University, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Psychology