The Children of 9/11 – How Well Have They Adjusted?

In the ten years since 9/11, more and more research has emerged examining how this trauma has affected the psychological and social well-being of the children who experienced the trauma, indirectly or directly. However, there is still little evidence available demonstrating how the event has affected these children long-term. “Major negative life events can play an important role in adolescents’ short- and long-term psychological adjustment. Exposure to disasters, terrorism, or community and family violence frequently elicits symptoms of anxiety, generalized distress, avoidance, persistent re-experiencing of the event, sleep disturbances, and behavioral difficulties,” said Nancy Eisenberg, of the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University, and co-author of a paper examining the impact these experiences have had on the youngest survivors. “Evidence suggests that both direct and indirect exposure to the 9/11 attacks resulted in a modest increase in symptomatology (posttraumatic stress symptoms, anxiety, separation anxiety disorder) among representative samples of youth and young adults in New York City, with some children and adolescents exhibiting clinically significant symptomatology.”

Adolescents often adjust better to any traumatic experience when they have a strong, healthy and supportive parent, but Eisenberg found many children did not. “For example, mothers’ depression and PTSD were associated with New York City preschool children’s increased emotional reactivity and aggressive behavior.” She added, referring to children who were in Washington, D.C. that morning, “Adolescents’ posttraumatic stress responses were significantly predicted by their mothers’ own stress responses, their mothers’ personal characteristics, and perceptions of their mothers’ parenting styles.” Eisenberg pointed out the significance of coping styles relative to these traumatic events, saying that children with avoidant coping behaviors prior to the attacks exhibited similar behaviors after. She added, “Researchers interested in children’s social, emotional, and psychological development have much to learn about children’s reactions to events like 9/11 and factors that might mitigate the negative consequences of such events on children’s development.”

Eisenberg, Nancy, and Roxane Cohen Silver. “Growing up in the Shadow of Terrorism: Youth in America after 9/11.” American Psychologist 66.6 (2011): 468-81. Print.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • gena


    September 15th, 2011 at 4:14 AM

    That has to be a pretty tough “legacy” to live with. But i have to say that I was happy to see some really positive articles out this past weekend about some of these kids and their families; and although they can never replace what had been lost, many of them had moved on and were in a good place in their lives. I know that this past weekend had to be so difficult but I was glad to see that many had adjusted well, and they were able to live with the memories of their loved ones as more sweet, and not just bitter.

  • n campbell

    n campbell

    September 15th, 2011 at 5:27 AM

    hard to imagine how it would have impacted a child…seeing destruction and death like that and maybe even have lost a family member would really be hard for a child.and the sooner help was horn to such kids the better it is.parental support is lacking according to the article.I just hope they received some sort of support elsewhere at least because otherwise it could have a major effect growing up and even later for the children.



    September 15th, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    I sure do hope that they are doing well because if anyone deserves it they do.

  • Caitlyn Reab

    Caitlyn Reab

    September 15th, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    Watching the names being read of those who died on 9/11 was hard enough, but the worst part was all of the children who got up to read. And the saddest thing of all was to think that these children who read were only a small fraction of the children affected by this catastrophe.

    I too am hoping and preying that these children have adjusted okay to 9/11. They have had harder lives then most of the other children in their schools could even imagine. Often times we think only of those who died from 9/11 but we should also think about those who are suffering from the loss of a loved one caused by it.

  • Martin


    September 15th, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    These kids need to be diagnosed in my opinion. It may not have been visible that they at affected or it may be dormant. Whatever it is, a chek is never going to hurt anyone. Its not too big an effort to identify all such individuals of a particular age bracket and then to diagnose them!

  • robby


    September 16th, 2011 at 4:12 AM

    something that can have a traumatic effect on even adults,9/11 would have web like a nightmare come true for these kids.I just hope there have been no cases of something major happening to such kids.and for parents who think your child still has not fully recovered from the event’s memories-please consult a specialist and keep an eye for anything that can suggest a problem.

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