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Vulnerability factors for disaster-induced child post-traumatic stress disorder : the case for low family resilience and previous mental illness

By Brett M. McDermott, Vanessa E. Cobham, Helen Berry and Helen M. Stallman


Objective: The aim of the present study was to investigate whether parent report of family resilience predicted children’s disaster-induced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and general emotional symptoms, independent of a broad range of variables including event-related factors, previous child mental illness and social connectedness. ---------- Methods: A total of 568 children (mean age = 10.2 years, SD = 1.3) who attended public primary schools, were screened 3 months after Cyclone Larry devastated the Innisfail region of North Queensland. Measures included parent report on the Family Resilience Measure and Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ)–emotional subscale and child report on the PTSD Reaction Index, measures of event exposure and social connectedness. ---------- Results: Sixty-four students (11.3%) were in the severe–very severe PTSD category and 53 families (28.6%) scored in the poor family resilience range. A lower family resilience score was associated with child emotional problems on the SDQ and longer duration of previous child mental health difficulties, but not disaster-induced child PTSD or child threat perception on either bivariate analysis, or as a main or moderator variable on multivariate analysis (main effect: adjusted odds ratio (ORadj) = 0.57, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.13–2.44). Similarly, previous mental illness was not a significant predictor of child PTSD in the multivariate model (ORadj = 0.75, 95%CI = 0.16–3.61). ---------- Conclusion: In this post-disaster sample children with existing mental health problems and those of low-resilience families were not at elevated risk of PTSD. The possibility that the aetiological model of disaster-induced child PTSD may differ from usual child and adolescent conceptualizations is discussed

Topics: 110300 CLINICAL SCIENCES, 170200 COGNITIVE SCIENCE, Children, Family Resilience, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.3109/00048670903489916
OAI identifier:

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