Exposure to terrorist attacks increases mental health problems in children

December 20, 2007

Riverside Drive, N.Y. - December 20, 2007 - A new report published in Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice reveals that children exposed to terrorist attacks show elevated symptoms of mental health problems, including posttraumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and general anxiety disorder.

Statistically speaking, it is unlikely that the majority of youth will ever experience direct exposure to a terrorist attack. Following a terrorist attack, however, youth are exposed to a substantial amount of attack-related media coverage.

Within this present climate of heightened awareness about terrorism, many children are exposed to what the authors termed "second-hand terrorism," in which media disproportionately focus on the possibility of being a direct victim of future terrorism. This sets the stage for insecurity, countless false alarms, and persistent anxiety.

Technological advances provide a stage from which terrorist acts can reach a truly vast audience, and news networks further afford unprecedented coverage of terrorism on a global scale. Media-based contact with terrorism can result in substantial amounts of distress in exposed youth.

"Researching youth in the aftermath of terrorist attacks, as well as youth exposed to media presentations about terrorism, is critical to inform service delivery and public policy, and to ensure that the mental health needs of youth are afforded ample resources," the authors note.
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This study is published in the journal Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact journalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net.

Jonathan S. Comer is affiliated with Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. He can be reached for questions at joncomer@temple.edu.

Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice presents cutting-edge developments in the science and practice of clinical psychology by publishing scholarly topical reviews of research, theory, and application to diverse areas of the field, including assessment, intervention, service delivery, and professional issues.

Wiley-Blackwell was formed in February 2007 as a result of the acquisition of Blackwell Publishing Ltd. by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and its merger with Wiley's Scientific, Technical, and Medical business. Together, the companies have created a global publishing business with deep strength in every major academic and professional field. Wiley-Blackwell publishes approximately 1,400 scholarly peer-reviewed journals and an extensive collection of books with global appeal. For more information on Wiley-Blackwell, please visit www.blackwellpublishing.com or http://interscience.wiley.com.

Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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