Skip to main content

Terrorism Media Effects in Youth Exposed to Chronic Threat and Conflict in Israel


Purpose of Review

This paper reviews the extant research on the effects of contact with terrorism media coverage on psychological outcomes in youth in the context of chronic threat and conflict in Israel.

Recent Findings

The extant research is inconclusive with respect to the relationship between media contact and a variety of psychological outcomes in Israeli studies of youth exposed to ongoing threat and repeated terrorist attacks.


Additional research is needed to examine potential differences in outcomes and the factors that influence youth coping and adaptation in an environment of chronic threat and extensive media coverage. Moreover, studies are needed to identify and evaluate potential parental, professional, and social strategies to enhance youth adjustment. Because political conflict in Israel is not likely to abate in the near future, the setting is ideal to conduct methodologically rigorous research including research using representative samples, prospective reporting, and longitudinal design.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


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

  1. • Houston JB. Media coverage of terrorism: a meta-analytic assessment of media use and posttraumatic stress. Journal Mass Commun Q. 2009;86(4):844–61. This meta-analysis of 23 studies of terrorism media coverage and posttraumatic stress outcomes found a significant effect. Effects were greater for studies examining posttraumatic stress symptoms or reactions relative to those examining posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for studies examining coverage through multiple media forms relative to those limited to television coverage, for studies of youth rather than adults, and for studies of samples located further from the event relative to samples within the city where the event occurred.

  2. • Pfefferbaum B, Newman E, Nelson SD, Nitiéma P, Pfefferbaum RL, Rahman A. Disaster media coverage and psychological outcomes: descriptive findings in the extant research. Curr Psychiat Rep. 2014;16(9):464. This literature review described the events, sample, and forms of media coverage studied in the extant disaster media research and examined the association between media contact and psychological outcomes. The analysis found evidence for a relationship between television coverage of disasters and various psychological outcomes but indicated that there are too few studies to draw conclusions about a relationship between outcomes and contact with coverage through other media forms.

  3. •• Pfefferbaum B, Tucker P, Pfefferbaum RL, Nelson SD, Nitiéma P, Newman E. Media effects in youth exposed to terrorist incidents: a historical perspective. Curr Psychiat Rep. 2018; 20(2):11. DOI: This paper reviewed the evidence on the relationship between contact with media coverage of single terrorist incidents and psychological outcomes in youth and traced the evolution in research methodology. The research, characterized by increasingly sophisticated research methods over time, supports a relationship between media contact and various outcomes in children with different event exposures but concluded that there is insufficient research to assume a causal relationship.

  4. Braun-Lewensohn O, Celestin-Westreich S, Celestin L, Verleye G, Verté D, Ponjaert-Kristoffersen I. Coping styles as moderating the relationships between terrorist attacks and well-being outcomes. J Adolesc. 2009;32(3):585–99.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Braun-Lewensohn O, Celestin-Westreich S, Celestin L, Verté D, Ponjaert-Kristoffersen I. Adolescents’ mental health outcomes according to different types of exposure to ongoing terror attacks. J Youth Adolesc. 2009;38(6):850–62.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Oppenheimer S, Villa Y, Apter A. Effects of prolonged exposure to terrorism on Israeli youth: stress-related responses as a function of place of residence, news consumption, and gender. Adolesc Psychiatry. 2011;1(2):152–62.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Barile JP, Grogan KE, Henrich CC, Brookmeyer KA, Shahar G. Symptoms of depression in Israeli adolescents following a suicide bombing: the role of gender. J Early Adolesc. 2012;32(4):502–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Tatar M, Amram S. Israeli adolescents’ coping strategies in relation to terrorist attacks. Br J Guid Couns. 2007;35(2):163–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Wang Y, Nomura Y, Pat-Horenczyk R, Doppelt O, Abramovitz R, Brom D, et al. Association of direct exposure to terrorism, media exposure to terrorism, and other trauma with emotional and behavioral problems in preschool children. Ann NYAcad Sci. 2006;1094(1):363–8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Lavi T, Green O, Dekel R. The contribution of personal and exposure characteristics to the adjustment of adolescents following war. J Adolesc. 2013;36(1):21–30.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. • Lavi T, Itzhaky L, Menachem M, Solomon Z. Adolescents on the front line: exposure to shelling via television and the parental role. Psychiatry. 2016;79(1):85–94. In this study of Israeli adolescents, contact with television coverage of terrorist attacks was not related to posttraumatic stress or distress. Parental intermediation was not effective in ameliorating PTS, but appears to have been effective with respect to general distress in adolescents who reported the lowest levels of actual exposure to attacks.

  12. Pfefferbaum B, Nitiéma P, Newman E. Is viewing mass trauma television coverage associated with trauma reactions in adults and youth? A meta-analytic review. J Trauma Stress (in press).

  13. Slone M, Shur L, Gilady A. Youth exposed to terrorism: the moderating role of ideology. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2016;18(5):44.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Klar Y, Zakay D, Sharvit K. ‘If I don’t get blown up . . .’: realism in face of terrorism in an Israeli nationwide sample. Risk Decision Policy. 2002;7(2):203–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Pat-Horenczyk R, Schiff M, Doppelt O. Maintaining routine despite ongoing exposure to terrorism: a healthy strategy for adolescents? J Adolesc Health. 2006;39(2):199–205.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Pfefferbaum RL, Gurwitch RH, Robertson MJ, Brandt EN, Pfefferbaum B. Terrorism, the media, and distress in youth. Prev Res. 2003;10(2):14–6.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Wilson BJ. Media and children’s aggression, fear, and altruism. Futur Child. 2008;18(1):87–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Comer JS, Kendall PC. Terrorism: the psychological impact on youth. Clin Psychol Sci Pract. 2007;14(3):179–212.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Walma van der Molen JH. Violence and suffering in television news: toward a broader conception of harmful television content for children. Pediatrics. 2004;113(6):1771–5.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Comer JS, Furr JM, Beidas RS, Weiner CL, Kendall PC. Children and terrorism-related news: training parents in coping and media literacy. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2008;76(4):568–78.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  21. • Braun-Lewensohn O. Coping and social support in children exposed to mass trauma. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2015;17(6):46. This paper reviewed studies of youth coping in the context of mass trauma published between the years 2011 and 2014 and proposed a comprehensive model for better understanding the process of coping with these events. The paper recommends that future research emphasize the youth’s developmental stage, the cultural context and environment in which the youth reside, and the type of event (acute vs. chronic; natural vs. manmade).

Download references


The editors would like to thank Dr. Orna Braun-Lewensohn for taking the time to review this manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Betty Pfefferbaum.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

Betty Pfefferbaum is a section editor for Current Psychiatry Reports.

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not report new data in studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Pfefferbaum, B., Tucker, P., Newman, E. et al. Terrorism Media Effects in Youth Exposed to Chronic Threat and Conflict in Israel. Curr Psychiatry Rep 21, 28 (2019).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Media
  • Mental health
  • Television
  • Terrorism
  • Terrorism threat
  • Youth