A snapshot of terror: acute posttraumatic responses to the September 11 attack

J Trauma Dissociation. 2005;6(2):69-84. doi: 10.1300/J229v06n02_07.


This paper reports on acute posttraumatic reactions and forms of coping to the September 11 attack. We conducted a survey within three weeks of the attack on a nationwide, representative sample of individuals 13 years or older (N = 3,134). Measures included the Stanford Acute Stress Reaction Questionnaire (SASRQ), the brief version of the COPE, and questions about demographics and attitudes toward the attackers. Results show that residents of New York City--women, young adults (but not teens), and people recently immigrated into the country--experienced more distress about the attack. There was a positive linear association between hours of watching TV news related to the attack and distress, and a small positive association between hostility toward the perpetrators, TV watching, and distress. Income, religion, education, and ethnicity did not have an effect on distress. Maladaptive coping strategies and TV watching explained considerably more variance than did demographics. Reactions to acute trauma seem to depend on the lack of appropriate coping strategies. The curvilinear relationship between age and posttraumatic distress suggests caution when interpreting previous findings about age and posttraumatic reactions. The association between media exposure, coping styles, and acute distress among teens extends previous findings and deserves further investigation.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Traumatic, Acute / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Traumatic, Acute / psychology
  • Television
  • Terrorism / psychology*
  • United States / epidemiology