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Media Effects in Youth Exposed to Terrorist Incidents: a Historical Perspective


Purpose of Review

This paper reviews the evidence on the relationship between contact with media coverage of terrorist incidents and psychological outcomes in children and adolescents while tracing the evolution in research methodology.

Recent Findings

Studies of recent events in the USA have moved from correlational cross-sectional studies examining primarily television coverage and posttraumatic stress reactions to longitudinal studies that address multiple media forms and a range of psychological outcomes including depression and anxiety.


Studies of events in the USA—the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the September 11 attacks, and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing—and elsewhere have used increasingly sophisticated research methods to document a relationship between contact with various media forms and adverse psychological outcomes in children with different event exposures. Although adverse outcomes are associated with reports of greater contact with terrorism coverage in cross-sectional studies, there is insufficient evidence at this time to assume a causal relationship. Additional research is needed to investigate a host of issues such as newer media forms, high-risk populations, and contextual factors.

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

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The editors would like to thank Dr. Tami Benton for taking the time to review this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Betty Pfefferbaum.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Child and Family Disaster Psychiatry

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Pfefferbaum, B., Tucker, P., Pfefferbaum, R.L. et al. Media Effects in Youth Exposed to Terrorist Incidents: a Historical Perspective. Curr Psychiatry Rep 20, 11 (2018).

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  • Children
  • Disaster
  • Media
  • Mental health
  • Television
  • Terrorism