226526 Children as Bellwethers of (Mal)Adaptation after a Disaster: Enduring Mental Health Effects of Hurricane Katrina on Children and Youth

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 : 11:00 AM - 11:15 AM

David M. Abramson, PhD MPH , National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia University, New York, NY
Tasha Stehling-Ariza, MPH , National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia University, New York, NY
Yoon Soo Park, MS , National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY
Children and youth have very limited capacity to independently mobilize resources to help them adapt to stressful post-disaster circumstances. Instead, they are dependent upon others to make choices that will influence their household, neighborhood, school, and larger social environment. Measuring recovery among children has focused on their social and emotional adaptation and wellness, which may reasonably be regarded as functional expressions of the larger social forces impacting their lives. Because of their dependency -- and their sensitivity to structural, emotional, and psycho-dynamic stability in their lives -- children are like canaries in a gold mine: bellwethers of a family's mal-adaptation. The Gulf Coast Child & Family Health Study has followed a longitudinal cohort of 1,079 randomly sampled households in Louisiana and Mississippi over four annual waves of data collection since 2006. In order to analyze children's adaptation and recovery, the research team administered the 25-item Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) to parents and caregivers during winter 2009-2010. The SDQ is a widely used measure of social, emotional and behavioral functioning among children and youth, and has been validated as a diagnostic screener and epidemiological tool. In this study the SDQ, and its four sub-scales of emotional, hyperactivity, conduct, and peer problems, were used as outcome measures to test the effect of household characteristics (housing stability, household composition, parental mental health) and neighborhood characteristics (parent's sense of community, neighborhood cohesion and control, the latter collected as objective measures) among a pediatric cohort exposed to Hurricane Katrina and a subsequent displacement.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify the prevalence of mental health effects among a disaster-exposed pediatric population 2. Analyze relationship between structural characteristics at household and neighborhood level and child mental health

Keywords: Child/Adolescent Mental Health, Disasters

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: As principal investigator of the study I am responsible for study design, data collection, and data analysis
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.