Psychological Effects Of Natural Disasters Research Paper

Length: 15 pages Sources: 10 Subject: Children Type: Research Paper Paper: #49837608 Related Topics: Oklahoma City Bombing, Natural Resource, Age Of Innocence, Trauma
Excerpt from Research Paper :

This is mostly experienced in case where the trauma caused psychological disorders, phobias, and depression, and this may go as far as inhibiting the maturation process of the child and even interacting with the emerging personality. According to Newman (1976) three factors can be used to predict the psychological effects of disasters on children, these are; the child's developmental level, the child's perception about the family's response to the disaster, and the child's level of exposure to the traumatic experience. A number of studies on a child's reaction to disaster in relation to family's response have mainly concentrated on their mothers. A report by McFarlane (1987) indicated that post-traumatic symptoms in children who had been exposed to the Australian bushfires had a close relation to the anxiety of the mothers than to the exposure level. The family's reaction to and integration after the stressful experience is therefore one of the best predictors of the child's reaction than the level of exposure, thus it is almost accurate to conclude that persistent stress reactions in children have a relation to mothers' symptomatology on the one hand, and the integration level of the family and the personality of the child on the other.

Effects on adults

There are researchers who have had particular interest on the psychological effects of disasters on adults thus a number of studies have been carried out to find out the facts about this. It has to be noted that there is not much difference on the effects that disasters have on children and adults, the variation mostly comes in the extent to which such reactions take place. In a study carried out by Parker et al. (2006) assessing adult memory for Hurricane Andrew came up with a number of results consistent with these facts. In the assessment, the adult memory was evaluated as a function of stress and results compared to a previous study which dealt with the memory of children for the same event carried out by Bahrick et al. (1998). The study assessed the recall of a natural disaster, an intricate event that was comprehensive in time.

The parallel study of children's recall which was carried out at the same time with the study showed that the recall of Hurricane Andrew by preschoolers had a U-shaped curve, with the highest recall recorded at moderate levels of stress (Bahrick et al. 1998). It was therefore of interest to find out whether their mothers exhibited a comparable quadratic function that relates stress and recall. Memory of different parts of the event was also examined, such as the hurricane preparations, the hurricane itself, and its consequences, centrality of content, and memory test type, i.e. free recall against prompted, as a function of the experienced stress and these results were compared to that obtained from the children.

The findings showed that the overall recall of mothers of the hurricane revealed a quadratic relation with stress. There was an increase in recall from low to moderate levels of storm severity and then remained steady from moderate to high storm severity. This observation remained the same even after adjustment of recall for the covariates of retention and rehearsal interval. Likewise, their children's recall indicated a quadratic relation with stress and exhibited a major rise from low to moderate levels of storm severity. Conversely, the children exhibited a major drop from moderate to high levels of storm severity. Mothers also demonstrated quadratic patterns in relation to stress and recall for varied parts of the event. Though, memories of the preparation stage of the hurricane remained even and displayed no difference as a function of stress. In the preparation phase, mothers of all stress levels would have gone through the event as equally stressful given that it was not known that the storm would bring any serious disaster. The evaluation of the quadratic relation between recall and stress and the failure to observe a major drop in recall from moderate to high storm severity were done in context of natural differences in the extent and quantity of recallable material for individuals who experienced moderated against high storm severity.

For those individuals who experienced high storm severity tolerated a hurricane consequence that was extensively longer and had a considerably...


Additionally, it had an extended storm with more events related to hurricane during the storm. There was also more evidence of rehearsal at the high level of storm severity. These likely confounds would result to one expecting the memory for individuals who went through high storm severity to be greater than for those who experienced low or moderate storm severity, given the larger amount of possibly recallable material in both the hurricane and the resulting periods.

Nevertheless, neither this greater amount of potential information nor the greater amount of rehearsal at high levels of stress translated into increased recall for the mothers in the high storm severity situation. To a certain extent, these factors may have recompensed for what would otherwise be a reduction in recall at the high stress level. This indicates that mothers, similar to their children, may face some impairment in recall due to high stress. It appears that for mothers, their recall of emotional content faced more impairment from high stress than from any other content. It has however not been determined whether high stress really caused memory impairment or unwillingness to report memories. Largely, there are clear parallels between the recall patterns exhibited by adults and children. Data for both groups showed greater recall of peripheral than central information, prompted than spontaneous information, descriptions than internal states, and actions than descriptions. It has to be noted however that as much as the recall of adults and children were parallel, adults recall a great deal more information about the disaster than children.

Generally, it has been found that going through severe trauma and the resulting stress and desolation can generate a number of various reactions psychologically in adults, these may range from brief, stressful adjustments to serious mental health worries. Various researchers have reported that most individuals experiencing trauma from disasters will be understandably stressed but pliant (Acierno, et al., (2002). Despite that, there have been observations of increase in the prevalence of mental health issues following disasters with a concomitant reduction in the access to and the use of mental health and medical services which is a little troubling. In addition, displacement and evacuation also tend to be related with poorer outcomes for adults, over and above having concomitant financial, residential, transportation, and social support difficulties. Some adults have also indicated long-standing mental health difficulties following a disaster.

Possible resolutions

Whenever pediatric healthcare professionals are responding to disasters, it is important to remember that in spite of the pandemonium, a lot of the stress reactions of children and families exhibited are usual reactions to an incredibly unusual circumstance. Dealing with psychosocial outcomes resulting from disaster needs a very solicitous and all-inclusive plan of care to reduce the adverse impact of disaster on victims from a cognitive, emotional, and behavioral perspective. This is mainly true for children in a case where they were separated from their families as a result of a disaster. There should familiarity among the nurses and healthcare professionals acting in response to disasters with regard to special needs of children in such adverse situations, which should include the essential assessment strategies and involvements based on developmental level, age, and cognitive development (Plum & Veenema 2003). Pediatric healthcare professionals should aggressively hunt for children and families who have experienced disasters to make them aware of available services. The foremost effect of a disaster on children is the disturbance of their lives through loss and injury, or destruction of relevant structures such as schools, home and the neighborhood. This results to a loss of consistency, predictability, and structure which distresses children of all ages and developmental levels.

There are particular interventions that can be employed by pediatric healthcare professionals in helping children of all ages. The most important factor is the availability of parents who are necessary in providing emotional support required to take care of the children. In order to help parents marshal resources needed to give the necessary care, educational support should be provided which includes teaching parents and other caretakers about general behaviors that might be exhibited by children and adolescents. In case where mental support is required, such individuals should be referred to qualified mental health clinical nurse specialists, psychologists, nurse practitioners, or child-life experts. There are certain organizations that offer such assistance an example being the American Red Cross that will provide such services when set out to assist in disaster stricken areas. With the help of an experienced mental health professional, children and parents can understand and cope with feelings, thoughts, and habits that come due to such misfortune by offering constructive means of handling the inconceivable emotional…

Sources Used in Documents:


Acierno, R. et al., (2002). Psychopathology following interpersonal violence: A comparison of risk factors in older and younger adults. Journal of Clinical Geropsychology, 8:13-23.

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2005). Helping children after a disaster. Retrieved 15 March, 2010. from

Bahrick, L.E., et al. (1998). The effects of stress on young children's memory for a natural disaster. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 4, 308 -- 331.

Bates, F.L., & Peacock, W.G. (1987). Disasters and social change. In Dynes, R.R. et al. (eds.).

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