(New York, NY - June 09, 2009) — Preschool children whose mothers had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, as a result of exposure to the World Trade Center (WTC) attacks, were more likely to have behavioral problems. This new research from Mount Sinai School of Medicine appears in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
“Our study proves that the adverse effects of terrorism on mothers and their very young children can be persistent and long-lasting,” said lead author Yoko Nomura, PhD, MDH, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Preschool children are highly vulnerable to the effects of armed conflict, but until now, very little has been known about the effects of terrorism on these children. Dr. Nomura and Claude Chemtob, PhD, Visiting Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, sought to discover and document the cause and effect between parental PTSD and depression and resulting child behavioral problems. PTSD and depression occur frequently in adults exposed to traumatic events, such as terrorist attacks. “Trauma affects both mothers and their young children, but for young children, primarily through its effects on their mothers’ psychological functioning,” said Dr. Chemtob.
The study was conducted from March 2003 through December 2005 and included 102 mothers and their children directly exposed to the WTC attacks. Most of the mothers and children who participated in this study lived in the area. For the study, the mothers reported PTSD and depression, and these numbers were compared to child behavioral problems that were rated by mothers and teachers using a standardized behavioral checklist. The study found that almost three years after the WTC attacks, preschool children whose mothers suffered from the terrorism-related psychiatric problems were at the highest risk for developing behavioral problems.