Chowchilla revisited: the effects of psychic trauma four years after a school-bus kidnapping

Am J Psychiatry. 1983 Dec;140(12):1543-50. doi: 10.1176/ajp.140.12.1543.


A 4-year follow-up study of 25 school-bus kidnapping victims and one child who narrowly missed the experience revealed that every child exhibited posttraumatic effects. Symptom severity was related to the child's prior vulnerabilities, family pathology, and community bonding. Important new findings included pessimism about the future, belief in omens and prediction, memories of incorrect perceptions, thought suppression, shame, fear of reexperiencing traumatic anxiety, trauma-specific and mundane fears, posttraumatic play, behavioral reenactment, repetitions of psychophysiological disturbances that began with the kidnapping, repeated nightmares, and dreams of personal death. Brief treatment 5-13 months after the kidnapping did not prevent symptoms and signs 4 years later.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Adult
  • California
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Crime*
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Dreams
  • Family
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Perceptual Disorders / psychology
  • Play and Playthings
  • Self Concept
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Time Perception