Disaster in Context: The Effects of 9/11 on Youth Distant from the Attacks
Although an increasing amount of community mental health research has investigated the deleterious effects of disasters and the targeting and efficacy of treatment in their aftermath, little research has sought to identify preexisting characteristics of the social environment that are predictive of post-disaster distress. A national US telephone survey fielded before and after September 11, 2001, was used to investigate the psychological distress among American adolescents related to the attacks, and to identify environmental and other characteristics that predisposed youth to experience higher or lower levels of post-disaster distress. The study found that widespread characteristics of children’s school environments—school disorder and physical threats—were at least as strongly associated with a proxy for psychological distress as exposure to the events of 9/11. Further, children exposed to physical threats at school appeared to be more vulnerable to the psychological effects of disasters than children in safer school environments.