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.
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.
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.
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).
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.