Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dmitri V. Poltavski


Introduction: While child abuse can only occur before the ages 18, there are long term neurological repercussions that can cause severe detriment to the abused individual. More specifically, normative neurological development during childhood is impeded upon, thus resulting in cognitive and emotional abnormalities in adulthood. Methods: The present study recruited 43 students from the University of North Dakota (Females = 23) with an age range of 18-23 years of age (M = 19.6 years, SD = 1.545). The participants were administered several prescreening measures, including a measure of physical child abuse, emotional child abuse, and sexual child abuse. Based on responses to these measures, participants were assigned to either a no child abuse group, a mild child abuse group, or a moderate-to-severe child abuse group. Next, three measures of executive functioning skill were administered while electroencephalographic data was collected. Results: There was a statistically significant main effect of child abuse group (F = 3.712, p = .034) for the probability of cognitive workload. Drug abuse, which served as a covariate, was also found to be significantly attenuated (F = 6.33, p = .016) during measures of attention. Conclusion: Individuals that have been abused as children must use significantly more mental effort to complete tasks as compared to their non-abused counterparts. Increased neurological effort could be used to explain poor decision making skills that is common within the population. Further analysis must be conducted on behavior data that collected for the present study. Likewise, new research should explore the relationship between drug use and abuse and neurological deficits in this population.