Child & Youth Care Forum

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 285–337 | Cite as

Research Methods in Child Disaster Studies: A Review of Studies Generated by the September 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks; the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami; and Hurricane Katrina

  • Betty Pfefferbaum
  • Carl F. Weems
  • Brandon G. Scott
  • Pascal Nitiéma
  • Mary A. Noffsinger
  • Rose L. Pfefferbaum
  • Vandana Varma
  • Amarsha Chakraburtty
Original Paper



A comprehensive review of the design principles and methodological approaches that have been used to make inferences from the research on disasters in children is needed.


To identify the methodological approaches used to study children’s reactions to three recent major disasters—the September 11, 2001, attacks; the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami; and Hurricane Katrina.


This review was guided by a systematic literature search.


A total of 165 unduplicated empirical reports were generated by the search and examined for this review. This included 83 references on September 11, 29 on the 2004 Tsunami, and 53 on Hurricane Katrina.


A diversity of methods has been brought to bear in understanding children’s reactions to disasters. While cross-sectional studies predominate, pre-event data for some investigations emerged from archival data and data from studies examining non-disaster topics. The nature and extent of the influence of risk and protective variables beyond disaster exposure are not fully understood due, in part, to limitations in the study designs used in the extant research. Advancing an understanding of the roles of exposure and various individual, family, and social factors depends upon the extent to which measures and assessment techniques are valid and reliable, as well as on data sources and data collection designs. Comprehensive assessments that extend beyond questionnaires and checklists to include interviews and cognitive and biological measures to elucidate the negative and positive effects of disasters on children also may improve the knowledge base.


Disaster Research design Research methods Research samples Terrorism Trauma 



This work was funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Nursing Research, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (5 R25 MH070569) which established the Child and Family Disaster Research Training and Education Program at the Terrorism and Disaster Center (TDC) at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (Dr. B. Pfefferbaum). TDC is a partner in the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (1 U79 SM57278).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Betty Pfefferbaum
    • 2
    • 7
  • Carl F. Weems
    • 3
  • Brandon G. Scott
    • 3
  • Pascal Nitiéma
    • 2
    • 4
  • Mary A. Noffsinger
    • 2
    • 5
  • Rose L. Pfefferbaum
    • 2
    • 6
  • Vandana Varma
    • 2
  • Amarsha Chakraburtty
    • 1
  1. 1.College of MedicineUniversity of Oklahoma Health Sciences CenterOklahoma CityUSA
  2. 2.Terrorism and Disaster CenterUniversity of Oklahoma Health Sciences CenterOklahoma CityUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of New OrleansNew OrleansUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, College of Public HealthUniversity of Oklahoma Health Sciences CenterOklahoma CityUSA
  5. 5.Courtroom Sciences, Inc.IrvingUSA
  6. 6.Liberal Arts DepartmentPhoenix Community CollegePhoenixUSA
  7. 7.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, College of MedicineUniversity of Oklahoma Health Sciences CenterOklahoma CityUSA

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