Animal-assisted invention (AAI) in gaining attention as a therapeutic modality; however, the effect of it has not been well studied in the child welfare system. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of AAI on stress indicators (as measured by salivary alpha-amylase (sAA), immunoglobulin A (IgA), and heart rate) in children undergoing forensic interviews for alleged sexual abuse. A repeated measures design was used in this study. Upon receiving signed, informed consents and assents, children were enrolled in the study. Children ( n=42), whose ages ranged from 5 to 14 years ( M=8.91, SD=2.33), were assigned to either the intervention condition ( n=19; AAI during forensic interview) or the control condition ( n=23; standard practice forensic interview). Each child's parent/guardian completed a demographic form, and saliva samples and heart rate measures were obtained from each child before and after the forensic interview. Mixed linear models were tested, with the level of significance set at p≤0.05. There was an interactive effect regarding the duration of the interview and the presence of the dog on sAA after the forensic interview ( p=0.047). There also was a significant interaction between age and length of interview ( p=0.01). Salivary immunoglobulin A tended to be lower ( p=0.055) when the therapy dog was present during the forensic interview. Results further indicated that the drop in heart rate was greater in longer interviews and with older children ( p=0.02) when the dog was present. Individuals working in child welfare systems can use the results of this study to advocate for the use of therapy dogs as a therapeutic intervention. More research is needed to further examine the relationships among AAI, salivary biomarkers, and stress responses in children to improve child welfare.
|Author Address||College of Nursing, University of Colorado Denver, Anschutz Medical Campus, ED2 North, Mail Stop C288-19, 13120 E. 19th Avenue, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.Cheryl.Krause-Parello@ucdenver.edu|
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