Handbook of Psychological Services for Children and Adolescents

By Jan N. Hughes; Annette M. La Greca et al. | Go to book overview

10
Children Experiencing Disasters
Prevention and Intervention
ANNETTE M. LA GRECA

In the wake of devastating natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, flood, brushfires), human-made disasters (plane crashes, ferry sinkings, nuclear waste accidents), as well as recent school shootings, bombings, and terrorist activities, tremendous concern has developed regarding the impact of disasters on children and adolescents. Media coverage of such activities has alerted us to the significant trauma that children can and do experience. In fact, it has become apparent that children's exposure to such traumatic events can lead to reactions that may interfere substantially with their day-to-day functioning and cause them and their families significant distress.

Specifically, exposure to natural and man-made disasters represent traumatic events that can result in the emergence of a specific set of symptom patterns—those of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; e.g., Green et al., 1991; La Greca, Silverman, Vernberg, & Prinstein, 1996; Lonigan, Shannon, Finch, Daugherty, & Taylor, 1991; Shannon, Lonigan, Finch, & Taylor, 1994; Shaw et al., 1995; Vernberg, La Greca, Silverman, & Prinstein, 1996). Moreover, exposure to violence of a personal nature, such as through rape, kidnapping, physical and sexual abuse, and community violence, also precipitates symptoms of PTSD (e.g., Pynoos et al., 1987; Terr, 1983). This chapter describes the symptoms and prevalence of PTSD in children and adolescents, as well as other reactions that may result from exposure to disasters. This chapter also outlines factors that contribute to the development and course of posttraumatic stress and discusses the implications of these findings for prevention and intervention with children and adolescents.

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