Impact of a technological disaster on young children: A five-year postdisaster multiinformant study


  • This study was supported by a grant of the Netherlands Ministry of Public Health, Welfare, and Sports. We would like to thank Dr. Roel Huijsman-Rubingh and Prof. dr. Berthold Gersons for initiating the study, Prof. dr. Peter Muris and Dr. Cor Meesters for their advice on instrument selection; Mirjam Bos, Yvonne Luyten-de Thouars, Ines van de Merwe and Carrie Schriemer for collecting the data; Dr. Jan Kerssens for his statistical advice. Most important, we want to express our gratitude to the school personnel for their hospitality and to the children and their parents who were so kind as to fill out our questionnaires.


Children exposed to a technological disaster during an understudied part of the lifespan, preschool age and early middle childhood, were assessed in a 5-year follow-up regarding mental health problems, anxiety disorder symptoms, depressive symptoms, physical symptoms, and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Exposed children and their parents (n = 264) reported significantly more problems than controls (n = 515). The differences were greater for conduct problems (including hyperactivity) and physical symptoms, than for anxiety and depression. The long-term effects of a technological disaster on children of pre-school age at exposure appear to differ from those in children, who were victimized at a later age. This may reflect interference with completion of specific developmental tasks.