Adjustment among area youth after the boston marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt

Jonathan S. Comer*, Annie Dantowitz, Tommy Chou, Aubrey L. Edson, R. Meredith Elkins, Caroline Kerns, Bonnie Brown, Jennifer Greif Green

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The majority of research on terrorism-exposed youth has examined large-scale terrorism with mass casualties. Limited research has examined children's reactions to terrorism of the scope of the Boston Marathon bombing. Furthermore, the extraordinary postattack interagency manhunt and shelter-in-place warning made for a truly unprecedented experience in its own right for families. Understanding the psychological adjustment of Boston-area youth in the aftermath of these events is critical for informing clinical efforts. METHODS: Survey of Boston-area parents/caretakers (N = 460) reporting on their child's experiences during the attack week, as well as psychosocial functioning in the first 6 attack months. RESULTS: There was heterogeneity across youth in attack- and manhunt-related experiences and clinical outcomes. The proportion of youth with likely attack/manhunt-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was roughly 6 times higher among Boston Marathon-attending youth than nonattending youth. Attack and manhunt experiences each uniquely predicted 9% of PTSD symptom variance, with manhunt exposures more robustly associated than attack-related exposures with a range of psychosocial outcomes, including emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity/inattention, and peer problems. One-fifth of youth watched >3 hours of televised coverage on the attack day, which was linked to PTSD symptoms, conduct problems, and total difficulties. Prosocial behavior and positive peer functioning buffered the impact of exposure. CONCLUSIONS: Clinical efforts must maintain a broadened focus beyond simply youth present at the blasts and must also include youth highly exposed to the intense interagency pursuit and manhunt. Continued research is needed to understand the adjustment of youth after mass traumas and large-scale manhunts in residential communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-14
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Disaster
  • Mental health
  • PTSD
  • Terrorism
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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