The Center for Nursing Research at Kean University is participating in a student-faculty research initiative titled “Examining Stress Indicators in Sexually Abused Children: Canine Companion during Forensic Interviews.” The purpose of this experimental studyis to examine the psychobiological and behavioral interface between animal-assisted intervention (AAI) and stress indicators during forensic interviews at a Child Advocacy Center (CAC) in female children, 6-12 years old, alleged to have experienced sexual abuse. The research initiative is funded by the American Nurses Foundation (ANF) and Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Society (STTI).
Dr. Cheryl Krause-Parello, associate professor in Kean’s School of Nursing and director of the CNR, is serving as the principal investigator. The student researchers, from within and beyond Kean University, who bring knowledge from multiple disciplinary backgrounds include: academic specialists Zakiya Boyd, Jaclyn Holzer, Rasheeda Williams and Debbie Korczukowski, research assistant Mairead Bevilaque, and graduate assistant Annaruth Sarcone. The team conducts literature reviews, writes and edits grant applications, work on Institutional Review Board applications and assists in communications. Boyd and Sarcone have also collected data and participated in on-site research activities.
The effects of AAI on stress indicators will be measured by in-vitro biomarkers, salivary cortisol and salivary alpha-amylase, along with in-vivo biomarkers, blood pressure and pulse, before and after the forensic interview. Salivary cortisol levels and alpha-amylase will be measured by using a commercially-available, unstimulated saliva collection device, and will then be subjected to enzyme immunoassay analysis. For the analyses in this research, the level of significance will be p ≤ .05. This study aims to effectively incorporate AAI and integrate a certified assistance canine into forensic interviews at a CAC that serve survivors of child sexual abuse.
According to the research team, the long-term aims of this research are to positively transform CACs nationwide by utilizing evidence-based practice protocols to reduce stress responses in children alleged to have experienced child sexual abuse. The anticipated value and impact of this study includes the development of an innovative behavioral intervention that improves knowledge on biomarkers associated with stress indicators in a vulnerable population. This study has promise to affect the current state of nursing science and has potential implications for healthcare practice protocols in child advocacy centers. Based on current statistics and preliminary support of the benefits of animal-assisted intervention, this study may identify an intervention that reduces the impact of trauma on a child’s biology, possibly interrupting the impact of abuse on children’s immediate and long-term negative health outcomes. In addition, this study has potential to generate evidence on the benefits of using AAI as a therapeutic intervention; thereby providing nurses and other health care providers with the empirical support needed to implement alternate stress reduction modalities in practice.
“Overall, this study is innovative in its examination of a nontraditional intervention that could be applied to multiple vulnerable populations in various scenarios with the potential to provide empirical knowledge in a controversial area with little existing experimental data,” said Krause-Parello. “By combining AAI with forensic interviews and measuring the consequential psychobiological differences, the study has the potential to transform the field of intervention for sexually abused children, as well as other victims of traumatic stress.”
For more information regarding Kean’s Center for Nursing Research or the “Examining Stress Indicators in Sexually Abused Children: Canine Companion during Forensic Interviews” project, please contact Dr. Krause-Parello at (908) 737-3387 or email@example.com.