Caregiver distress, shared traumatic exposure, and child adjustment among area youth following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing

Caroline E. Kerns*, R. Meredith Elkins, Aubrey L. Carpenter, Tommy Chou, Jennifer Greif Green, Jonathan S. Comer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background Disasters are associated with myriad negative outcomes in youth, including posttraumatic stress disorder and related psychopathology. Prior work suggests links between caregiver distress and child mental health outcomes following community traumas, but the extent to which caregiver distress is directly linked to post-disaster child functioning, or whether such associations may simply be due to shared traumatic exposure, remains unclear. Methods The current study examined relationships among caregiver distress, caregiver-child shared traumatic exposure, and child outcomes in Boston-area families (N=460) during the six months following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Parents completed surveys about their and their child's potentially traumatic experiences during the bombing and subsequent manhunt. Post-attack caregiver distress and child psychological functioning were also assessed. Results After accounting for caregiver-child shared traumatic exposure, significant associations were retained between caregiver distress and child functioning across several domains. Furthermore, after accounting for caregiver traumatic exposure, caregiver distress moderated relationships between child traumatic exposure and child posttraumatic stress and conduct problems, such that associations between child traumatic exposure and child posttraumatic stress and conduct problems were particularly strong among children of highly distressed caregivers. Limitations The cross-sectional design did not permit evaluations across time, and population-based methods were not applied. Conclusions Findings clarify links between caregiver distress and child psychopathology in the aftermath of disaster and can inform optimal allocation of clinical resources targeting disaster-affected youth and their families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-55
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Volume167
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014

Keywords

  • Child mental health
  • Disasters
  • PTSD
  • Parental distress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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