Children’s coping styles and trauma symptoms after an explosion disaster

Mette Elmose Andersen, Ask Elklit, Christina Duch


Background: The negative impact of trauma on children and adolescents is well documented. However, few studies have investigated the relationship between coping and trauma and distress symptoms after man-made disasters, especially those not related to war.
Objective: This study investigated the relationship between children’s coping styles and their self-reported levels of trauma and distress symptoms after an explosion disaster in a residential area.
Method: Participants were recruited through the local public school that served the affected residential area. A total of 333 children and adolescents from grades 3 through 10 participated in the study 16 months after the explosion. All participants filled out questionnaires to assess their trauma and distress symptoms as well as their coping strategies. The adolescents answered additional questions about pre-, peri-, and post-traumatic factors and filled out questionnaires about their trauma and distress symptoms, including aspects of somatization and negative affectivity.
Results: The following variables were associated with a higher degree of trauma symptoms for children in grades 6 through 10 and explained 39% to 48% of the unique variance in these symptoms: female gender; the experience of traumatic events pre-disaster; the destruction of property or danger to life occurring during the disaster; the experience of traumatic events post-disaster; and the use of self-blame, emotion regulation, wishful thinking, and cognitive restructuring. For the younger children, pre-, peri-, and post-disaster factors were not measured. However, female gender and the use of self-blame as a coping strategy explained 26% of the variance in trauma symptoms.
Conclusions: This study generally supports the findings of the limited literature addressing coping skills after man-made disasters. However, contrary to previous findings in community samples after episodes of terrorism, adaptive coping strategies such as cognitive restructuring were found to influence the variance of trauma and distress symptoms.


children; disaster; coping strategies; trauma symptoms

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ISSN 2245-8875

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