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Children, resilience and disasters: recent evidence that should influence a model of psychosocial care

Williams, Richarda; Alexander, David Ab; Bolsover, Deniseb; Bakke, Fiona Kb

Current Opinion in Psychiatry: July 2008 - Volume 21 - Issue 4 - p 338–344
doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e328305b6e4
Child and adolescent psychiatry: Edited by Richard Williams and Philip Hazell

Purpose of review This paper draws on articles and chapters published mainly in 2006 and 2007 to identify implications for designing sustainable programmes of psychosocial care for children and young people who are affected by disasters and terrorism.

Recent findings Recent research confirms previous knowledge that most children and young people are resilient, but also very vulnerable to the psychosocial effects of disasters. Most children are distressed in the immediate aftermath when they gain their sense of safety from adults, predictable routines and consistent support systems. Others may develop serious mental disorders though post-traumatic mental disorders may not develop until weeks, months or years later. Research instruments may be sensitive to cultural variability; simply translating measures into other languages is insufficient.

Summary International experience of different types of disaster and terrorist incidents suggests that the broad principles of good service design include integrating responses to the psychosocial needs of children and adolescents into general disaster preparedness and recovery plans; working with families rather than individual children to address their needs; identifying professionals who specialize in responding to disasters and are skilled in working with children prior to events; and focusing resources on increasing the capabilities of staff of community facilities to recognize and respond to children's common reactions to trauma and provide assistance.

aUniversity of Glamorgan, Pontypridd, Wales, UK

bRobert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland

Correspondence to Richard Williams, Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care, Faculty of Health, Sport and Science, University of Glamorgan, Glyntaff Campus, Pontypridd, CF37 1DL, South Wales, UK E-mail:

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.