Psychology, Department of


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College of the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of the Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychology. Under the Supervision of Professor David J. Hansen.
Lincoln, Nebraska: July 2009
Copyright (c) 2009 Kathryn R. Wilson.


Child maltreatment is a pervasive problem in our society that has long-term detrimental consequences to the development of the affected child such as future brain growth and functioning. The alteration of the biochemical stress response system in the brain that changes an individual’s ability to respond efficiently and efficaciously to future stressors is conceptualized as the traumatic stress response. The purpose of this research was to explore the effects of the traumatic stress response on sexually abused adolescents’ through a two-tiered study of neuropsychological functioning throughout treatment. It was determined that there are measurable differences in neuropsychological processing in sexually abused adolescents throughout the course of treatment. These changes in neuropsychological functioning were related to changes in behavioral and emotional functioning; specifically, trauma-specific emotional functioning, self-report of memory functioning, and task performance of attention performance were consistently correlated. Thus there is corollary support for an underlying neuropsychological processing phenomenon consistent with the conceptualization of the traumatic stress response.