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, 30 (1), 1-22

Young Children's Responses to September 11th: The New York City Experience

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Young Children's Responses to September 11th: The New York City Experience

Tovah P Klein et al. Infant Ment Health J.

Abstract

Although the knowledge base regarding very young children's responses to trauma has been expanding, descriptions of their responses to terrorism remain sparse. Yet, their vulnerability makes this an important group to study. Recent events in the United States (9/11, Hurricane Katrina) make this question highly relevant. This study aims to provide extensive descriptions of how children 5 years or younger on September 11th who were living in close proximity to Ground Zero responded that day and in the following months. Sixty-seven New York City parents (with 104 children) participated in focus groups between November 2001 and May 2002. Focus groups also provided a foundation for an in-depth study examining young children's adaptation following 9/11 and changes in parenting behaviors after the disaster. Findings on children's behavioral and emotional reactions on 9/11 and in the 8 months after as well as their need to return to normalcy are reported. Consistent with current understanding of trauma symptoms in young children, parents reported behaviors including chronic sleep disruptions, fearful reactions, development of new fears, and increased clinginess and separation anxiety following the disaster. On the actual day, children's responses were described as ranging from calm and cooperative to difficult and panicky. Implications for working with parents and young children affected by terrorism or community-level trauma and directions for future research are discussed.

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