The overall aim of the study is to test the effects of having a specially trained service dog present with children undergoing forensic interviews for child abuse and to ascertain the children's perception of having the dog present. The goal is to identify to what extent children who have the dog present with them during the interview have less fear and physiological reactivity (measured by skin temperature) than children exposed to the usual Standard of Practice. A further goal is to identify whether having the dog present facilitates the interview, lessening the need for second or third interviews. The U.S. Department of Health &Human Services reported that in the year 2007, more than 3.5 million children underwent Child Protective Service investigations or assessments for abuse (DHHS, 2009). The large numbers of children experiencing potential psychological disability resulting from maltreatment and the legal processes necessary to prosecute perpetrators underscores the need to identify interventions to alleviate children's distress. For these children, there may be a double jeopardy effect in which the child is abused and then must suffer additional psychological distress while undergoing investigation into the alleged crime. A two-year study is proposed using a two-group randomized, repeated measures design in children ages 4-17 who are undergoing forensic interviews for child abuse in Mid-Missouri. The treatment group will interact with a trained service dog before undergoing the forensic interview and be accompanied by the dog during the interview. We will recruit participants from the Ozark Foothills Child Advocacy Center and implement the protocol in the 3 sites in which it conducts forensic interviews. We will collect data with all participants at baseline, 15 minutes later (control group) or immediately aftr interacting with the dog (treatment group), and when the forensic interview is finished. Deliverables from the study include the service dog protocol, and potential benefits to children who participate. The protocol will be made available to investigators and child advocacy groups that would like to begin a similar service dog program. We hope the Missouri program will be a model for programs throughout the U.S. It will meet a need among families with abused children who will experience forensic interviews.

Public Health Relevance

The overall aim of the study is to test the effects of having a specially trained service dog present with children during forensic interviews for child abuse on stress (skin temperature) and fear and to ascertain the children's perception of having the dog present. The goal is to identify to what extent children who have the dog present with them during the interview have less fear and physiological reactivity (measured by skin temperature) than children exposed to the usual Standard of Practice. A further goal is the translational outcome of identifying whether having the dog present facilitates the interview, lessening the need for second or third interviews.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Type
Small Research Grants (R03)
Project #
1R03HD070557-01
Application #
8205256
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZHD1-DSR-H (50))
Program Officer
Esposito, Layla E
Project Start
2011-12-01
Project End
2013-11-30
Budget Start
2011-12-01
Budget End
2012-11-30
Support Year
1
Fiscal Year
2012
Total Cost
$75,750
Indirect Cost
$25,750
Name
University of Missouri-Columbia
Department
None
Type
Schools of Nursing
DUNS #
153890272
City
Columbia
State
MO
Country
United States
Zip Code
65211