CORVALLIS, Ore. A new national study not only has confirmed that children who have been exposed to disasters from earthquakes to fires are more prone to emotional problems, but many of those children may already have been experiencing maltreatment, domestic abuse or peer violence that could exacerbate those issues.
Researchers found that children who had experienced such victimization on top of exposure to disaster had more anxiety, depression, and aggression than children who only experienced a disaster. But, the authors say, these disasters can offer an opportunity for community organizations and first-responders to be in contact with children that might be suffering silently and need support.
"We have known for a long time that children who experience disasters have emotional and behavioral problems that seem to be related to the disaster. This study makes it clear that, for some children, those problems may also be related to other stress events in their lives," said lead author Kathryn Becker-Blease, a child development psychologist with Oregon State University.
Becker-Blease and colleagues at the University of New Hampshire looked at data from a nationally representative sample of 2,030 children aged two to 17 years. Their findings are in a special issue of the journal Child Development that focuses on disasters and their impact on children. The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The study, taken from phone interviews with children and parents, shows that 4.1 percent of children had experienced a disaster in the past year and that 13.9 percent of the sample reported a lifetime exposure to a variety of disasters. In the study, disaster was defined to include both minor disasters, like home fires, and major disasters, like large earthquakes.
In the Child Development study, only two of the 70 children who experienced victimization in the past year received counseling for emotional or
|Contact: Kathryn Becker-Blease|
Oregon State University