Intrusive thoughts and young children's knowledge about thinking following a natural disaster


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Abstract

Background:Hurricane Katrina devastated the Mississippi Gulf Coast in August 2005. Intrusive re-experiencing is a common posttraumatic stress symptom. However, young children with limited introspection skills might have difficulties identifying their intrusive thoughts.Method:A sample of 165 5- to 9-year-old children were surveyed about their unwanted intrusive thoughts and their knowledge about thinking, 10 months following the hurricane.Results:Results replicate and extend the findings from a previous study (Sprung, 2008). Although there was no difference in the overall occurrence of intrusive thoughts, there was a striking difference between hurricane-exposed and control children in their contents. Children's knowledge about thinking was linked to their ability to report on their negative intrusive thoughts, even taking language ability into account.Conclusion:There is a shift toward negative content following hurricane exposure compared with non-hurricane-exposed children and knowledge about thinking is linked to the reporting of such intrusive thoughts. Implications for current research on autobiographical memory and for interventions following potentially traumatic events are discussed.

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