Psychopathology Among New York City Public School Children 6 Months After September 11

It has been proposed that the terror itself that results from a terrorist
attack elicits what is perhaps one of the attack’s more profound
consequences: a direct assault on the population’s mental health.
Prior research suggests that in the context of a mass disaster, children may be an especially vulnerable group. Previous research has shown that direct
exposure to different types of mass traumatic events is associated with an increase in posttraumatic stress symptoms among children. Postdisaster studies have also reported elevated prevalence of physical symptoms, anxiety, and depression, which are frequently comorbid with posttraumatic
stress reactions among youth. Previous studies examining the results of mass trauma on child mental health have included selected or volunteer samples at the trauma site. Studies to date have not examined population-based samples; therefore, the extent to which results generalize to youth in the community, or to different levels of exposure, is not known. Moreover, previous studies have focused mainly on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and have not assessed a range of mental disorders. Several publications have documented the impact of September 11 on adults’ mental health; studies published to date have not yet directly assessed children, although some did elicit parental reports. This article reports the results of the New York City, NY, Department of Education (formerly the New York City Board of Education) study, which examined the prevalence of 8 probable mental disorders and their relationship to levels of exposure to the World Trade Center (WTC) attack in a large representative sample of New York City public school children 6 months following this disaster.

Children & Disasters