Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 227–239 | Cite as

Recalling a Devastating Tornado: Qualities of Child Recollections and Associations with Mental Health Symptoms

  • Erin P. HambrickEmail author
  • Eric M. Vernberg
  • Andrea F. Greenhoot
  • Michelle L. Hendrickson


Trauma recollections often contain trauma-related cognitive and emotional processing. Research examining indicators of such processing in children’s trauma recollections and their association with mental health symptoms is limited. Fifty 8 to 12-year-old children provided two open-ended recollections about (1) challenging/“bad” things and (2) positive/ “good” things that happened to them 1-year post experiencing an EF-5 tornado. Children completed exposure and mental health symptom measures (PTSD, anxiety, depression). Transcripts were coded for indicators of processing: coherence, positive and negative emotion terms, and resolutions. Age, gender, SES, family tornado-related discussion frequency, verbal ability, tornado-specific psychotherapy receipt, and exposure were controlled. Coherence and positive emotion were positively associated and resolutions were negatively associated with mental health symptoms when children discussed the “bad” things. Children’s processing and mental health symptoms were unrelated when children discussed the “good” things. The measured indicators of children’s processing may reflect children’s meaning-making efforts and have implications for adjustment.


Natural disaster Children Meaning-making Trauma Recollections Cognitive processing Emotional processing Mental health 



Dr. Hambrick’s efforts were funded in part under grant T32 MH015442, institutional postdoctoral research training program, for Dr. Hambrick. This work was also funded in part by the Pioneer Classes Dissertation Award, administered by the University of Kansas Endowment Association on behalf of the KU Clinical Child Psychology Program, the Scott Mesh Honorary Scholarship for Research in Psychology, administered by the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students, the Doctoral Student Research Fund, administered by the KU Graduate School, and the Psychology Strategic Initiatives Research Grant, administered by the KU Psychology Department, all awarded to Dr. Hambrick.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Disclosure of Interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Standards and Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation [institutional and national] at the University of Kansas, and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all participants for being included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Missouri-Kansas CityKansas CityUSA
  2. 2.Clinical Child Psychology Program, Departments of Psychology and Applied Behavioral ScienceUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  3. 3.Center for Teaching Excellence and Department of PsychologyUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychology, Jackson Behavioral Health Hospital, Jackson Health SystemUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA

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