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Significant Posttraumatic Stress in Youths After Boston Marathon

Kids affected not only by the attack itself but also by the subsequent manhunt

THURSDAY, June 5, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Youths experienced significant posttraumatic stress resulting from not only the Boston Marathon bombing attack itself but also from the subsequent interagency manhunt and shelter-in-place warning, according to a study published online June 2 in Pediatrics.

Jonathan S. Comer, Ph.D., of the Florida International University in Miami, and colleagues surveyed 460 Boston-area parents/caregivers regarding their child's experiences during the week of the attack. They also questioned them about their child's psychosocial functioning during the first six months following the attack. The authors sought to better inform clinical efforts regarding how youths respond in the aftermath of these types of events.

On the day of the Boston Marathon, about 20 percent of youths watched more than three hours of televised coverage of the event. The researchers found that, compared with youths who did not attend the Boston Marathon, those who did were six times more likely to experience posttraumatic stress disorder. Interestingly, however, the manhunt exposure was actually more robustly associated with a range of emotional symptoms, conduct problems, inability to focus, and peer problems than the attack-related exposure.

"In the aftermath of terrorism, particularly acts targeting children and families, these findings underscore the urgency of connecting affected youth with mental health care," the authors write. "Furthermore, this study demonstrates that the reach of terror and associated fear is not confined to the boundaries of an attack itself; events and community responses that follow can also have considerable impacts on children's psychological well-being."

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