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Mom's Mental State Influenced Kids' Well-Being After 9/11: Study
Date:7/15/2010

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- For New York City preschoolers, having a mother with lingering mental health issues after the 9/11 attacks influenced how they fared emotionally more than whether the children had actually witnessed the attacks, a new study finds.

Kids whose mothers struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression after the 2001 assault on the World Trade Center were more likely to have behavioral problems three years later than children whose moms coped better with the attacks, the researchers said.

"With young kids, you have two possible sources of trauma: what they experienced directly, and how they react to the impact on their mother from what she experienced," said lead study author Claude Chemtob, director of the Family Trauma Research Program at New York University. "What we learned was, in fact, that if the mom's experience with 9/11 led to her having depression or PTSD, it had more of an impact than whether the kids saw it or not."

The study is published in the July/August issue of the journal Child Development.

Researchers interviewed the mothers of 116 children who were ages 5 and younger on the day of the attacks and either lived in lower Manhattan or attended preschool or daycare there. Mothers were asked about the "high-intensity" 9/11 experiences, such as whether they saw bodies falling from windows or the planes hitting the towers, as well as about their mental health and their child's mental health and behavior.

The children's teachers were also asked about the students' behavior.

About 57 percent of children whose mothers had PTSD and depression met the criteria for clinically significant "emotionally reactive behavior," or being overly clingy, quick to upset and reacting in age-inappropriate ways, the study found. About 36 percent were anxious or depressed; 29 percent had sleep proble
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