Evaluate children's stress after natural disasters

August 28, 2012

As Hurricane Isaac nears the Gulf Coast, one may wonder what the impact of natural disasters are on children. Who is most at risk for persistent stress reactions? How can such youth be identified and assisted in the aftermath of a destructive storm?

Dr. Annette M. La Greca, a professor of psychology and pediatrics at the University of Miami, and her colleagues, have been studying children's disaster reactions following Hurricanes Andrew (1992), Charley (2004) and Ike (2008). Recent findings from Hurricane Ike shed light on these questions about children's functioning.

The new findings suggest that it is important to evaluate children's symptoms of post-traumatic stress and depression, in order to identify those who may be the most adversely affected. Findings also suggest that helping children cope with that occur during or after the disaster may improve children's psychological functioning. "Children may have to move or change schools. Their neighborhood may not be safe for and they may not be able to spend time with their friends. Children need help coping with these and other post-disaster stressors," La Greca says.

In collaboration with Scott and Elaine Sevin, Dr. La Greca developed a workbook for parents to help their children cope with the many stressors that occur after disasters. The book gives parents tips for helping children stay healthy and fit, maintain normal routines, and cope with stressors and with emotions, such as fears and worries. The After the Storm workbook is available at no cost at www.7-dippity.com.

A paper to be published in the indicates that, eight months after the disaster, children with signs of both post-traumatic stress and depression represent a high-risk group for longer-term adverse reactions. Such children are less likely to recover by 15 months post-disaster than other youth. They also report more severe levels of and experience more post-disaster stressors than other youth. The authors on this paper are Drs. Betty Lai and Annette La Greca from the University of Miami, Dr. Beth Auslander from the University of Texas Medical Branch, and Dr. Mary Short from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

Related Stories

Mom or dad has bipolar disorder? Keep stress in check

May 5, 2011

Children whose mother or father is affected by bipolar disorder may need to keep their stress levels in check. A new international study, led by Concordia University, suggests the stress hormone cortisol is a key player in ...

Recommended for you

How language gives your brain a break

August 3, 2015

Here's a quick task: Take a look at the sentences below and decide which is the most effective. (1) "John threw out the old trash sitting in the kitchen." (2) "John threw the old trash sitting in the kitchen out."

Neural efficiency hypothesis confirmed

July 27, 2015

One of the big questions intelligence researchers grapple with is just how differences in intelligence are reflected in the human brain. Researchers at ETH Zurich have succeeded in studying further details relating to suspected ...

How does color blindness affect color preferences?

July 21, 2015

(Medical Xpress)—Dichromacy is a color vision defect in which one of the three types of cone photoreceptors is missing. The condition is hereditary and sex-linked, mostly affecting males. Although researchers have explored ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.