Study explores posttraumatic stress, posttraumatic growth in children exposed to natural disaster

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Posttraumatic stress symptoms—including symptoms such as intrusion, avoidance, negative thoughts and feelings, and hyperarousal—can arise among individuals exposed to natural disasters, yet positive psychological changes, such as posttraumatic growth, can also develop. A Journal of Traumatic Stress analysis looks at these processes in 757 children and adolescents who experienced the 2013 Ya'an earthquake in China.

Three classes of symptoms—resilient, thriving, and struggling—were identified at 8 and 20 months after the earthquake. Of the survivors who were classified as thriving at 8 months, those transitioning to the struggling class at 20 months were more likely to be girls, and they experienced higher levels of loss and injury compared with those transitioning to the resilient class or remaining in the thriving class.

The study's investigators recommend that clinicians consider the classes of posttraumatic stress symptoms and posttraumatic growth, and the potential development paths and the factors that are involved, when implementing interventions for children and adolescents after a natural disaster.

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