Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Children More Resilient Than Adults in Absorbing Severe Events

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Children More Resilient Than Adults in Absorbing Severe Events

Article excerpt

SAN DIEGO -- Children of parents who lost their jobs in the past 3-5 months were more likely to develop psychopathology if they reported three or more moderate to severely stressful life events in the past year than children who reported fewer such events, Dr. Karen L. Weihs reported in an interview during a poster session at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Dr. Weihs of the department of psychiatry at the University of Arizona, Tucson, said in an interview that she and her colleagues found a higher impairment threshold among children than had been previously reported. "When kids had one or two severe [life] events, they didn't seem to have any higher psychopathology ... than kids who had none.

"It was only when they had three severe events that their psychopathology risk went way up," she said. "That's new, because when you study adults, the general finding has been one severe event greatly elevates the risk of psychopathology. There's some resilience factor that kids seem to have."

In an effort to test whether stressful life events in the past year predicted the mental health of 9- to 13-year-old children 3-5 months after a parent's job loss, the researchers studied 191 mother-child pairs in one- and two-parent families in nine Maryland counties. Adults had to be unemployed in the prior 8 weeks.

The researchers conducted in-home visits with mothers and their children, where they administered an instrument called the Contextual Assessment of Stressful Events in Childhood, the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), the Columbia Impairment Scale, the Reynolds Child Depression Scale, and the Manifest Anxiety Scale. (The Contextual Assessment is not published but is available free of charge from the university's psychiatry department.)

"This is a stressed sample," Dr. …

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