, Volume 37, Issue 1-2, pp 225-244

Changes of PTSD Symptoms and School Reconstruction: A Two-year Prospective Study of Children and Adolescents after the Taiwan 921 Earthquake

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Abstract

Children and adolescents living in earthquake impacted areas may present various post-traumatic responses and adjustment along the post-traumatic reconstructive phases. Their surrounding environmental damage and reconstructive conditions may influence their adjustment as well. As part of a prospective and longitudinal research project aims to investigate the range and severity of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in children and adolescents residing near the epicenter after the Taiwan 921 Earthquake, this paper reports the changes of PTSD symptoms over a 2-year period. The study also examines the effects of school damage and reconstructive condition on PTSD symptoms. Earthquake Exposure Index for Youths and Child Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Reaction Index were administered to 2,028 and 2,077 youths at the first and second year, respectively, from two heavily impacted townships. Given that location, gender, individual and dwelling trauma exposure dose effect were controlled through a balanced sampling procedure and prior statistical confirmation, post-traumatic phase and school damage condition yield significant main effects. Students from the heavily damaged schools consistently displayed significantly more PTSD symptoms, including re-experiencing/avoidance and numbness/maladaptive symptoms, than their counterparts at the first and second year. Decline of prevalence of PTSD symptoms was noted from the first year to the second. Accordingly, there may be a need to implement a broad disaster recovery project with periodic screenings as well as school-specific and school-based mental health program.