Relocation after a Disaster: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Armenia after the Earthquake

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Abstract

Objective

To explore the relationship between exposure to the earthquake in Armenia on December 7, 1988, and relocation from the disaster zone, and the subsequent development of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and behavioral difficulties in children.

Method

The PTSD module of the Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents-Revised and the Depression Self-Rating Scale were administered to 25 children, aged 11 through 13 years, who had high exposure to the earthquake and remained in the earthquake city. They were compared with a demographically similar group of 24 children exposed to the earthquake who were relocated to another city after the earthquake and 25 nonexposed children. For each child the mothers responded to the Child Behavior Checklist and the teachers responded to the Teacher's Report Form.

Results

The hypothesis that relocated children would present with less PTSD, depression, and behavioral problems was not confirmed. Both groups of children with high exposure to the earthquake, one remaining in the earthquake city and one relocating, demonstrated significantly higher rates of PTSD, depression, and behavioral difficulties than the comparison group, there were no differences between the relocated children and those who remained in the earthquake zone. Conclusion: Children who were relocated after a natural disaster did no worse than children who remained in the disaster zone. Relocation should be considered as an alternative after catastrophic natural disasters in situations where resources are so limited that rebuilding cannot take place for an indefinite period of time. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 1996, 35(3):374–383.

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