Background: On October 29, 1998, around 400 young people were gathered in an old warehouse in Göteborg, Sweden, for a discotheque party. A fire erupted and spread explosively. Adolescents were exposed to dreadful scenes inside and outside the building. In all, 63 young people were killed and 213 physically injured. An 18-month follow-up with 275 adolescents (126 girls) who survived the fire, regarding the effects of the fire on symptoms of posttraumatic stress, school adjustment and performance, is reported.
Methods: Impact of Events Scale (IES), Clinician Administered Posttraumatic Stress Scale (CAPS) and an interview concerning background factors and issues of public and personal support.
Results: The level of posttraumatic stress was generally high, and highest among adolescents with an immigrant background. In all, 25% of the participants met DSM-IV criteria for PTSD. Twenty-three percent of the participants reported having either dropped out of school or repeated a class because of the fire. Students' ratings of how their own school handled the situation, and school absenteeism, were related to ratings of their own performance in school as well as to the level of posttraumatic stress.
Conclusions: Traditional talking cures were more sought out by girls than boys. Broad-scale interventions must be complemented with special treatment opportunities for the most severely afflicted. Victims who suffer from high levels of posttraumatic stress need special support for a long period of time to minimise the effects on scholastic achievement and adjustment. Studies of the effects of traumatic events on child and adolescent development should measure school-related effects better than has hitherto been the case.