Whitney’s Dissertation Update

Fifth year PhD student, Whitney, recently presented the third part of her dissertation on The Impact of Captive Swim-With-Dolphin Programs on Children’s Mental Health and Environmental Attitudes. She conducted a study that examined childrens’ educational and psychological aspects before and after interacting in a swim-with-dolphin program. She looked at the childrens’ knowledge of dolphin welfare, environmental attitudes, and conservation behaviors along with their perceived social support, emotion regulation, and empathy. Whitney also analyzed heart rate changes and the impact of physical touch between the dolphins and the children. She incorporated stress and trauma measures in the study, such as posttraumatic growth (PTG), as well. She found that swimming with captive dolphins can help with emotion regulation and heart rate but not empathy or environmental attitudes which may indicate very little long-term impacts from the program. Whitney found that conservation behaviors were positively correlated with human support, as well as, empathy. She found that younger participants were more aware of the environment than the older participants, whereas older participants perceived more support from their parents in comparison to the younger participants. Whitney did not find any significant correlations between stress symptoms and psychological variables but she is still analyzing the data for results on physical touch. She believes that these findings could help create programs to increase various educational and psychological aspects in children such as their overall emotional and behavioral health. Amazing work Whitney, we look forward to hearing more of your results!

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