Background: Experiencing a major natural disaster is a stressful event that challenges survival and sense of self. Adolescents are undergoing rapid developmental change in self-concept, and their sense of self is particularly susceptible to such stressful events. Although many studies have investigated adolescent self-concept, few have examined self-concept in relation to experiencing a natural disaster.
Objectives: Following the Great Wenchuan Earthquake in Sichuan Province, China, in 2008, this study aimed to (a) describe disaster experiences; (b) describe social support, coping, and self-support; and (c) identify disaster experiences, social support, and coping factors associated with self-concept of adolescent survivors 3 months after the earthquake.
Methods: This was a large-scale cross-sectional study. A total of 1,976 adolescents living where the earthquake caused the most severe damage took part. The Tennessee Self-Concept Scale; Coping Styles Scale; and Internality, Powerful Others, and Chance Scales were used to assess self-concept, coping strategy, and locus of control, respectively. Sociodemographic characteristics, earthquake experiences, and social support were also obtained by self-report.
Results: Three months after the disaster, adolescent self-concept was generally positive. Locus of control centered on powerful others was the strongest predictor of total self-concept. The negative coping strategy, “abreacting,” was a positive predictor of negative self-concept (self-criticism).
Discussion: Close attention to adolescents who use negative coping strategies and who tend to lack a sense of control is needed after major disaster events. Studies that examine long-term relationships between earthquake and other major disaster experiences and self-concept of adolescent survivors are needed.
Dongmei Wu, MD, is Assistant Professor, West China School of Nursing, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, and Sichuan Provincial People’s Hospital, China.
Xiaolian Jiang, PhD, is Professor, West China School of Nursing, West China Hospital, Sichuan University.
Kit-wan Ho, PhD, is Assistant Professor, Department of Applied Social Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Lijuan Duan, MD, is Assistant Professor, West China School of Nursing, West China Hospital, Sichuan University.
Weiqing Zhang, PhD, is Assistant Professor, Rui Jin Hospital, School of Medicine, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China.
Accepted for publication April 2, 2014.
The authors acknowledge this study was funded by The Post-Disaster Reconstruction Support and Research Center of Sichuan University and The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.
Corresponding author: Xiaolian Jiang, PhD, West China School of Nursing, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, 37 Guoxue Xiang Street, Chengdu 610041, Sichuan Province, China (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).