Coping and Post-Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents after an Acute Onset Disaster: A Systematic Review

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Acute onset disasters impact children’s and adolescents’ psychological well-being, often leading to mental health challenges. The way a young person copes with the event plays a significant role in development of post-disaster psychopathology. Coping has been widely studied after acute onset disasters, however, difficulties conducting research in post-disaster contexts and the individu-alized nature of coping make accurate assessment of coping a significant challenge. A systematic literature search of multiple databases and previous reviews was conducted, exploring scholarly documentation of coping measurement and the relationship between coping and post-traumatic stress (PTSS) symptoms after acute onset disasters. A total of 384 peer-reviewed manuscripts were identified, and 18 articles met the inclusion criteria and were included in the current review. The studies examined coping and post-traumatic stress in the wake of acute onset disasters such as terrorist events and natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires. Greater PTSS symptoms were related to internalizing, externalizing, rumination, and avoidant coping strategies. Coping measurement was constrained due to measurement variance, lack of developmentally and contextually vali-dated instruments, theoretical misalignment, and absence of comprehensive tools to assess coping. Robust and consistent measures of coping should be established to inform research and interventions to reduce the impact of disasters on children’s and adolescents’ well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4865
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Adolescents
  • Children
  • Coping
  • Disaster
  • Post-traumatic stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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