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Children and disaster: age, gender, and parental effects on PTSD symptoms.

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  • 1Georgetown University Medical School, Washington, DC 20007-2197.


Psychiatric reports of 179 children aged 2 to 15 who were exposed to the Buffalo Creek dam collapse in 1972 were rated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms 2 years after the disaster. Age and gender effects and the impact of the level of exposure and parental functioning were examined according to a conceptual model addressing factors contributing to adaptation to a traumatic event. Results showed fewer PTSD symptoms in the youngest age group and higher symptom levels for girls than boys. Approximately 37% of the children were given a "probable" diagnosis of PTSD. Multiple regression analysis showed that life threat, gender, parental psychopathology, and an irritable and/or depressed family atmosphere all contributed to the prediction of PTSD symptomatology in the children.

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