Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 79, Issue 3, pp 354–363 | Cite as

Exposure and peritraumatic response as predictors of posttraumatic stress in children following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing

  • Betty Pfefferbaum
  • Debby E. Doughty
  • Chandrashekar Reddy
  • Nilam Patel
  • Robin H. Gurwitch
  • Sara Jo Nixon
  • Rick D. Tivis
Special Feature: Urban Disaster


Studies have demonstrated a positive relationship between exposure and posttraumatic stress, but one's subjective appraisal of danger and threat at the time of exposure may be a better predictor of posttraumatic stress than more objective measures of exposure. We examined the role of peritraumatic response in posttraumatic stress reactions in over 2,000 middle school children 7 weeks after the 1995 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, bombing. While many children reported hearing and feeling the blast and knowing direct victims, most were in school at the time of the explosion and therefore were not in direct physical proximity to the incident. Physical, interpersonal, and television exposure accounted for 12% of the total variance in our measure of posttraumatic stress when peritraumatic response was ignored. Peritraumatic response and television exposure accounted for 25% of the total variance, and physical and interpersonal exposure were not significant in this context. These findings suggest the importance of peritraumatic response in children's reactions to terrorism. These carly responses can be used to help determine which children may experience difficulty over time.


Children Disaster Posttraumatic Stress Terrorism Trauma 


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Betty Pfefferbaum
    • 3
  • Debby E. Doughty
    • 3
  • Chandrashekar Reddy
    • 1
  • Nilam Patel
    • 3
  • Robin H. Gurwitch
    • 2
  • Sara Jo Nixon
    • 3
  • Rick D. Tivis
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, School of MedicineWashington UniversitySt. Louis
  2. 2.Department of PediatricsUniversity of Oklahoma Health Sciences CenterOklahoma City
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, College of MedicineUniversity of Oklahoma Health Sciences CenterOklahoma City

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