Children's Communication About Distressing Events: The Role of Emotional Openness and Psychological Attributes of Family Members


Department of Human Development and Family Science, Ohio State University, 1787 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210-1295. E-mail:


This study documents the importance of emotional openness to the recovery process in families following traumatic events. In this longitudinal study, relationships are examined between emotional openness and parents' psychological attributes, and mothers' and children's open disclosure of feelings. After September 11, 2001, 48 mothers and their 11-year-old children were interviewed about their reactions to the terrorist attacks. Measures included interview-based scores of children's and mothers' degree of openness, mothers' openness assessed during pregnancy and infancy, and parental depression and anxiety in close relationships. Emotional openness is a stable and reliably measured construct. Mothers' emotional openness was significantly related to earlier assessments of openness, indicators of their own and their spouse's emotional health, and their children's open expression of emotion about the terrorist attacks.