Neuropsychological aspects of sustained attention in sexually abused children
AdvisorObrzut, John E.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractAttention is one advanced skill in the field of neuropsychology which is associated with the frontal lobe of the human brain. As there have been many studies supporting the idea that sexually abused children demonstrate attentional deficits (Williamson, Borduin, & Howe, 1991; Putnam, 1993; Mennen, 1994; Maynes, 1994), the current study sought to assess attentional deficits in sexually abused children, and then establish any relationship linking child sexual abuse (CSA) and neuropsychology. Victims of sexual abuse have also been found to demonstrate higher levels of anxiety than non-sexually abused children (Conte & Schuerman 1987; Briere & Runtz, 1988; Heibert-Murphy 1992; Mennen & Meadow, 1994; Trickett & Putnam, 1994b). Secondarily, this study examined level of anxiety, in an effort to determine whether the children's attentional problems could be related to high anxiety level. Both the neuropsychological ability to sustain attention and self-reports of level of anxiety were examined in a group of thirty children, fifteen of whom had been sexually abused and fifteen who were reported to be non-sexually abused, for the purpose of learning whether any differences would be discovered between the two groups. Sustained attention was measured through three different assessment instruments: the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, the Mazes subtest of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - Third Edition, and the Trail-Making Test, Parts A and B. Anxiety was measured by the children's self-reports of anxiety on the Revised Children's Manifest Anxiety Scale. Although trends of greater perseverative responses to attentional tasks were found in the sexually abused group, no significant main effects for group were found on the neuropsychological test performance. Similar to the findings of previous research studies, the sexually abused group displayed significantly higher levels of physiological anxiety, worry/oversensitivity, and social concerns. Present findings seem to suggest that attentional difficulties in sexually abused children may be more related to emotional than neuropsychological difficulties.
Degree ProgramGraduate College