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Keywords:

  • post-traumatic stress;
  • children;
  • disaster;
  • Herald of Free Enterprise capsize

Abstract

Surprisingly, far less is known of the manifestations of post-traumatic stress reactions in children than in adults. Research over the past 10 years has begun to describe phenomena very similar to PTSD in adults, particularly among young adolescents. This paper will briefly review recent research and will describe our own experiences working with children who survived the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry disaster. Attention will be paid not only to the reactions of the children, but also to the reactions of their families, and to problems experienced subsequently at school. An account will be given of two therapeutic groups run in parallel for children and parents. It is concluded that children, at least in the 8- to 16-year age range, show problems very similar to adult PTSD, but that these will not be picked up by commonly used screening instruments.