Trauma Exposure and Mental Health Problems Among School Children 15 Months Post-Hurricane Katrina

Published In: Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma, v. 6, no. 3, 2013, p. 143-156

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2013

by Audra K. Langley, Judith B. Cohen, Anthony P. Mannarino, Lisa H. Jaycox, Matthias Schonlau, Molly M. Scott, Douglas Walker, Kate L. Gegenheimer

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Research Questions

  1. How prevalent are mental health problems in New Orleans children 15 months after Hurricane Katrina?
  2. What factors predict the occurrence of these problems?

The purpose of this study was to examine prevalence, correlates and predictors of mental health in children in New Orleans 15 months post-Hurricane Katrina. Analyses were conducted on 195 children who completed self-reports of hurricane and lifetime trauma exposure, social support, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and depression. Teachers completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Children reported high incidence of PTSD symptoms: 36.9% moderate to severe and 23.6% mild. In multiple regression analyses, gender, social support, and lifetime trauma exposure, but not hurricane exposure, significantly predicted PTSD. Age, social support, and lifetime trauma exposure, but not hurricane exposure, significantly predicted child depressive symptoms. Teachers reported lower levels of problems and no significant predictors of teacher reports other than age and school. PTSD and depression were significant problems for children 15 months post-Hurricane Katrina. Lifetime trauma exposure was the strongest predictor of both PTSD and depression. Effective and accessible treatment is needed for such children.

Key Findings

  • Significant mental health issues linger for children 15 months after Hurricane Katrina.
  • PTSD and depression were the most significant problems.
  • Lifetime trauma exposure was the strongest predictor of both.

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