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 Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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