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Research Papers

Issue date: 
Behavioural/social science, Earthquake studies
Paper number: 
2249 (EQC 95/174)

The psychological consequences of earthquakes and other disasters on children and youth

Author: Special Education Service

Technical Abstract

Earthquakes and other disasters can result in very substantial consequences for communities and individuals including widespread property damage, financial loss, and in the worst cases injury and death. These are immediate impacts. A less obvious consequence of disaster can be a negative effect upon the mental health of the community. Children would likely be a particularly vulnerable group but have been ignored in the past. This report reviews the international literature on the psychological effects of disasters on children and adolescents and concludes that disasters can result in a wide range of emotional and behavioural disturbances among the younger population. Specific clinical disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression are generally present in only a small proportion of children, with the incidence increasing after disasters involving extreme threat to life, and significant levels of death, injury and property destruction. This report also examines the issues involved in the identification and assessment of traumatised children and summarises the methodological difficulties involved in conducting disaster research with children. Various treatment and intervention programmes designed for children following disaster are discussed. The report summarises the main conclusions that can be drawn from the international literature and suggests directions for future research.

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