JOURNAL ARTICLE

The presence of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in adolescents three months after an 8·0 magnitude earthquake in southwest China

Weiqing Zhang, Xiaolian Jiang, Kit-wan Ho, Dongmei Wu
Journal of Clinical Nursing 2011, 20 (21-22): 3057-69
21883571

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: The aims of the study were to describe the post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in adolescent survivors three months after Wenchuan 5·12 Earthquake and to explore its contributing or preventing factors.

BACKGROUND: Adolescents are more vulnerable to be affected by natural disasters because of their special growth stage. Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms are common responses in adolescents after disasters, and its occurrence is related to some psychosocial factors.

DESIGN: The study used a cross-sectional design in a large sample.

METHODS: A total of 1976 subjects aged 12-20 were evaluated at three months after the earthquake by using the Post-traumatic stress disorder Checklist-Civilian Version. The Internality, Powerful others and Chance scale and the Coping Styles Scale were also administered to the subjects at the same time.

RESULTS: The mean total score of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist-Civilian Chinese Version was 33·64 (SD 11·15; range of score 17-85). The boys with a higher level of initial exposure to the earthquake had lower symptoms scores than girls with a lower level of initial exposure. Chance locus of control and power other locus of control were the powerful risk factors of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, while the protective factors included withdrawing skill, internality locus of control, junior high grade and social supports.

CONCLUSIONS: Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms are prevalent psychiatric reactions in adolescents after earthquakes. Locus of control and coping strategy could play an important role in its occurrence and severity besides demographic factors, exposure characteristics and social support factors.

RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: This study reveals that adolescents are the vulnerable group for suffering psychological stress responses to catastrophic events. Healthcare professionals, especially school nurses, should pay more attention to adolescents after trauma. Prompt and effective intervention should be carried out to mitigate the impact of initial exposure and reduce the occurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

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