Children's Mental Health in the Context of Terrorist Attacks, Ongoing Threats, and Possibilities of Future Terrorism

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2016 Sep;18(9):79. doi: 10.1007/s11920-016-0722-1.


Over the past two decades, the field has witnessed tremendous advances in our understanding of terrorism and its impacts on affected youth. It is now well established that a significant proportion of exposed youth show elevated PTSD symptoms in the months following a terrorist attack. In more recent years, research has expanded beyond confirming our understanding of the association between direct terrorism exposure and child PTSD symptoms by elucidating (a) links between terrorism exposure and non-PTSD clinical outcomes (e.g., externalizing problems, substance use), (b) individual differences associated with divergent patterns of risk and resilience, (c) the clinical correlates of media-based contact with terrorism, (d) clinical outcomes associated with exposure to recurrent terrorist attacks, and (e) exposure to extended contexts of uncertainty and the possibilities of future terrorism. Researchers studying the effects of terrorism and political violence on youth have increasingly examined a much broader range of regions in the world, affording needed opportunities to consider the generalizability of prior findings to youth living in different political contexts, in less developed regions of the world, and/or in regions with different rates of recurrent terrorism. In order to understand and, in turn, best meet the clinical needs of the majority of terrorism-affected youth across the globe, more targeted research on exposed youth is needed in developing regions of the world and regions enduring more recurrent terrorist attacks.

Keywords: Disasters; Media effects; Media exposure; PTSD; Political violence; Posttraumatic stress; Resilience; Secondhand terrorism; Terrorism; Uncertainty.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Health
  • Exposure to Violence* / psychology
  • Exposure to Violence* / trends
  • Humans
  • Internationality
  • Mental Health / trends
  • Needs Assessment
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / etiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / psychology
  • Terrorism* / psychology
  • Terrorism* / trends