Event-Related Household Discussions Following the Boston Marathon Bombing and Associated Posttraumatic Stress Among Area Youth

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Despite research documenting the scope of disaster-related posttraumatic stress (PTS) in youth, less is known about how family processes immediately postdisaster might associate with child outcomes. The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing affords a unique opportunity to assess links between immediate family discussions about community trauma and child mental health outcomes. The present study examined associations between attack-related household discussions and child PTS among Boston-area youth ages 4 to 19 following the Marathon bombing (N = 460). Caregivers completed surveys 2 to 6 months postattack about immediate household discussions about the events, child exposure to potentially traumatic attack-related experiences, and child PTS. During the Marathon bombing and manhunt, there was considerable heterogeneity in household discussions across area families, and several discussion items were differentially predictive of variability in children’s PTS. Specifically, after controlling for children’s direct exposure to the potentially traumatic attack/manhunt events, children showed lower PTS when it was their caregivers who informed them about the attack and manhunt, and when their caregivers expressed confidence in their safety and discussed their own feelings about the manhunt with their child. Children showed higher PTS when their caregivers did not discuss the events in front of them, asked others to avoid discussing the events in front of them, and expressed concern at the time that their child might not be safe. Child age and traumatic attack/manhunt exposure moderated several links between household discussions and child PTS. Findings underscore the importance of family communication and caregiver modeling during times of community threat and uncertainty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-342
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 4 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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