Public Disaster Communication and Child and Family Disaster Mental Health: a Review of Theoretical Frameworks and Empirical Evidence

  • J. Brian Houston
  • Jennifer First
  • Matthew L. Spialek
  • Mary E. Sorenson
  • Megan Koch
Child and Family Disaster Psychiatry (B Pfefferbaum, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Child and Family Disaster Psychiatry


Children have been identified as particularly vulnerable to psychological and behavioral difficulties following disaster. Public child and family disaster communication is one public health tool that can be utilized to promote coping/resilience and ameliorate maladaptive child reactions following an event. We conducted a review of the public disaster communication literature and identified three main functions of child and family disaster communication: fostering preparedness, providing psychoeducation, and conducting outreach. Our review also indicates that schools are a promising system for child and family disaster communication. We complete our review with three conclusions. First, theoretically, there appears to be a great opportunity for public disaster communication focused on child disaster reactions. Second, empirical research assessing the effects of public child and family disaster communication is essentially nonexistent. Third, despite the lack of empirical evidence in this area, there is opportunity for public child and family disaster communication efforts that address new domains.


Disaster Children Intervention Communication Campaign Mental health 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance. •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Brian Houston
    • 1
  • Jennifer First
    • 2
  • Matthew L. Spialek
    • 3
  • Mary E. Sorenson
    • 4
  • Megan Koch
    • 5
  1. 1.Disaster and Community Crisis Center, Department of CommunicationUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Disaster and Community Crisis Center, School of Social WorkUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Disaster and Community Crisis Center, Department of CommunicationUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  4. 4.Disaster and Community Crisis Center, Department of CommunicationUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  5. 5.Disaster and Community Crisis Center, Department of CommunicationUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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