Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Investigation into the potentially beneficial role of exercise for children suffering from maltreatment
by Hilgendorf, Kari Jo, Ph.D., Washington State University, 2015, 115; 10043066
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this dissertation is to promote care of children living with painful experiences from maltreatment, a pervasive concern world-wide. Research and clinical professionals strive to find new and novel methodologies to ameliorate short- and long-term sequelae that can impact the child’s life well into adulthood. However, the vast and complex array of damaging effects impede progress. Developmental, physiological, behavioral, biological, genetic, psychological, and neural systems are altered with chronic maltreatment, both individually and integratively with each system impacting another. Despite substantial gains in understanding mechanisms behind damage and systemic alterations, much more knowledge is required to give adequate care to victimized youth.

Current pharmacotherapeutic treatments enhance functionality but induce many adverse effects. Medications intended to target a specific behavior or psychological impairment have down-stream effects, altering relationships between, and functionality of, other interacting systems. Therefore, therapeutic approaches that target the body’s complexly interwoven system as a whole, but without causing adverse effects, may provide better care. Exercise potentially acts as such a treatment.

Exercise improves functionality of each system previously mentioned, enhancing many of the same mechanisms targeted by pharmacotherapies. Furthermore, exercise elicits behavioral and psychological improvements in youth with affective disorders associated with maltreatment, such as depression and anxiety. Therefore, we hypothesized that exercise would act as a supplemental therapy among youth with histories of maltreatment, reducing psychological, mental and physiological alterations occurring from chronic maltreatment.

The goal of the work presented in this dissertation was to enhance knowledge for the care of youth with maltreatment, helping them achieve resiliency as they progress through life. The chapters in this dissertation are manuscripts that address literature surrounding the topic of interest (Ch1), feasibility of incorporating study methodologies among at-risk youth (Ch2), and the findings from an exercise program facilitated among youth with histories of chronic maltreatment (Ch3). The findings of these studies indicate that exercise can be feasibly incorporated into daily routines of at-risk youth and can impact their physiological diurnal cortisol rhythms.

Ultimately, our findings indicate that additional research should pursue exercise as a supplemental therapeutic approach to improve quality of life for children exposed to maltreatment.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Knuth, Judy, White, John
Commitee: Blodgett, Chris, Haberman, Mel, Marsh, Sue
School: Washington State University
Department: Individual Interdisciplinary
School Location: United States -- Washington
Source: DAI-B 77/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Biochemistry, Health sciences, Behavioral Sciences
Keywords: At-risk, Cortisol, Hpa axis, Maltreatment, Physical activity, Youth
Publication Number: 10043066
ISBN: 978-1-339-55302-3
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