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.

Explore further: Mom or dad has bipolar disorder? Keep stress in check

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

Like adults, children show bias in attributing mental states to others

August 22, 2017
Young children are more likely to attribute mental states to characters that belong to the same group as them relative to characters that belong to an outside group, according to findings published in Psychological Science, ...

High moral reasoning associated with increased activity in the human brain's reward system

August 22, 2017
Individuals who have a high level of moral reasoning show increased activity in the brain's frontostriatal reward system, both during periods of rest and while performing a sequential risk taking and decision making task ...

Wealth disparity and family income impact the brain development of female youth

August 22, 2017
Female teenagers living in neighbourhoods with wide salary gaps and a low-income household show changes to their brain maturation that could indicate a higher risk of developing mental illness in adulthood, suggests a recently ...

Yoga and meditation improve mind-body health and stress resilience

August 22, 2017
Many people report positive health effects from practicing yoga and meditation, and experience both mental and physical benefits from these practices. However, we still have much to learn about how exactly these practices ...

Brain's self-regulation in teens at risk for obesity

August 22, 2017
In a small study that scanned the brains of teenagers while exposing them to tempting "food cues," researchers report that reduced activity in the brain's "self-regulation" system may be an important early predictor of adult ...

New study rebuts the claim that antidepressants do not work

August 18, 2017
A theory that has gained considerable attention in international media, including Newsweek and the CBS broadcast 60 minutes, suggests that antidepressant drugs such as the SSRIs do not exert any actual antidepressant effect. ...

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.