Personality Predictors of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Orphaned Survivors of the Sichuan Earthquake

Article excerpt

The personality predictors of posttraumatic stress disorder in orphan survivors after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China were investigated. Half a year after the earthquake, 196 preearthquake and 116 postearthquake orphans who survived were recruited. All participants completed the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire for Children (Gong, 1984) and Children's Revised Impact of Event Scale (Smith, Penin, Dyregrov, & Yule, 2003). The regression analysis showed that the Neuroticism score was the strongest predictor of the severity of PTSD symptoms for both pre- and postearthquake orphans. For the preearthquake orphans, the Extraversion trait predicted Arousal negatively, and the Lie trait predicted Intrusion and Arousal positively. However, for the postearthquake orphans, only the Extraversion trait predicted Avoidance positively.

Keywords: Eysenck Personality Questionnaire for Children, Eysenck Children's Revised Impact of Event Scale, posttraumatic stress disorder, orphans.

On May 12th, 2008, a huge earthquake occurred in the Sichuan province in southwest China, which has been deemed one of die deadliest and strongest natural disasters to hit China since a great earthquake happened in Tangshan in 1976. The earthquake devastated Sichuan, causing overwhelming economic losses, physical injuries, and deaths as weU as mental healtii imptications. The earthquake caused 69,197 deatiis, 374,176 injuries, 18,222 disappearances, and thousands of children were left orphaned (http://www.512gov.cn/GB/123057/807425.html).

Previous researchers have found that a high percentage of chUdren experienced symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being exposed to traumatic events, especiaUy the orphans who lost their parents at the same time (Norris et al., 2002; Zhang, Wang, & Sun, 2000). For example, Norris et al. found that natural disasters such as earthquakes cause orphans more serious mental health problems and these orphans have a higher probabüity of developing PTSD. SimUarly, after more than 20 years, Chinese researchers explored die long-term effects of me 1976 Tangshan earthquake on the mental health of earthquake orphans, concluding mat orphans had more mental health problems and a higher prevalence rate of PTSD and repeated flashbacks of traumatic experience (Zhang et al., 2000) compared to non-orphan chUdren who experienced the earthquake. A large number of researchers reported that there was a strong relationship between personality and PTSD development, suggesting that some personality traits such as Neuroticism acted as a lens magnifying the impact of trauma (Holeva & Tarrier, 2001; Hou & Li, 2006; Miller, 2003). So it is very meaningful to investigate the relationship between the pretraumatic personaUty risk factors and PTSD symptoms, which is very important for psychiatric and educational research in China.

In the study, we were mainly concerned with the primary personality risk factors predicting the development of PTSD in pre- and postearthquake orphans.

Half a year after the great earthquake, 312 pre- and postearthquake orphans who survived the earthquake were recruited. Among them, there were 196 preearthquake orphans, including 116 boys aged between 8 and 18 (M = 12.51, SD = 2.06), and 80 girls, aged between 8 and 16 (M = 12.37, SD = 1.85) and 116 postearthquake orphans, consisting of 69 boys aged between 8 and 16 (M = 12.21, SD = 1.76), and 47 girls aged between 8 and 17 (M = 12.08, SD = 2.01). All participants completed a package of questionnaires including the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire for Children (Gong, 1984) and die ChUdren's Revised Impact of Event Scale (CRIES-13; Smith, Perrin, Dyregrov, & Yule, 2003).

Four personaUty factors were entered into the regression analysis to verify the risk factors for the PTSD (see Table 1). The results showed that a high Neuroticism score was the strongest predictor which could significantly predict the severity of PTSD symptoms for both pre- and postearthquake orphans. …