Posttraumatic symptomatology in children and adolescents after an industrial fire.
OBJECTIVE: This investigation evaluated the extent and nature of posttraumatic symptomatology (PTS) in children and adolescents 9 months after an industrial fire at the imperial Foods chicken-processing plant in Hamlet, North Carolina, caused extensive loss of life. METHOD: Using a PTS self-report measure plus self- and teacher reports of comorbid symptoms the authors surveyed 1,019 fourth- to ninth-grade students in the community where the fire occurred. RESULTS: Three factors comprising PTS were identified: reexperiencing, avoidance and hyperarousal. Reexperiencing and avoidance were positively correlated; hyperarousal proved weakly correlated with reexperiencing, perhaps because exposure was largely indirect. Using a T score cutoff of 65 on the reexperiencing factor as indicative of PTS 9.7% of subjects met criteria for PTS; 11.9% met criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using DSM-III-R PTSD criteria. Degree of exposure was the most powerful predictor of PTS. Race (African-American) and gender (female) posed significant risk factors for PTS. Self-reported internalizing symptoms and teacher-reported externalizing symptoms were positively predicted by intercurrent PTS, and independently of PTS, by degree of exposure. Comorbid symptoms showed interesting interactions with exposure, race, and gender. Lack of self-attributed personal efficacy predicted PTS but did not moderate the effects of race or gender on PTS risk. CONCLUSIONS: This study, which used a population-based sampling strategy, strengthens and extends findings from earlier literature on pediatric PTSD in showing that (1) PTS and comorbid internalizing and externalizing symptoms rise in direct proportion to degree of exposure; (2) gender and race show variable effects on risk for PTS and comorbid symptoms; and (3) comorbid symptoms are positively correlated with PTS and may represent primary outcomes of traumatic exposure in their own right.
March, JS; Amaya-Jackson, L; Terry, R; Costanzo, P
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