The Effects of Maternal Disaster Exposure on Adolescent Mental Health 12 Years Later
Gepubliceerd in: Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology | Uitgave 9/2022Log in om toegang te krijgen
Natural disasters adversely impact children’s mental health, with increased parent or child exposure and subsequent parental distress predicting poorer outcomes. It remains unknown, however, whether the psychological consequences of disasters for children persist long-term, and if so, why and for whom. We therefore examined the effects of mothers’ exposure to Hurricane Katrina on adolescent children’s mental health 12 years later, distinguishing between direct effects of disaster exposure and effects mediated by maternal distress, and evaluating moderation by child age and gender. Data were from a 2003–2018 study of young, low-income, primarily African American mothers living in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina occurred in 2005 (n = 328). Mothers rated their mental health about one year pre-Katrina and one, four, and 12 years afterwards. They reported on an adolescent child’s (ages 10–17, mean = 14.46) internalizing and externalizing symptoms 12 years post-Katrina using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Path analytic models adjusting for mothers’ pre-disaster distress showed that, whereas the direct effects of maternal hurricane exposures on child mental health were not significant, the indirect effects were. Specifically, mothers who experienced more Katrina-related stressors had higher distress thereafter, which predicted poorer child outcomes. Results did not differ significantly by child age. Gender differences are discussed. Findings suggest that disasters can affect child mental health for many years, even for those who were very young or not yet born at the time, due to parents’ disaster-related distress. Addressing parents’ mental health needs in the aftermath of disasters may improve child well-being long-term.