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Keywords:

  • anxiety;
  • children;
  • depression;
  • postdisaster;
  • psychopathology

Objective: Developmental approaches have not been widely used in child and adolescent posttraumatic stress disorder research, and little is known about developmental differences in response to postdisaster trauma. Our objective was to investigate postdisaster depression and emotional distress psychopathology across a broad child and adolescent developmental range.

Method: Six months following a bushfire disaster, 2379 grade 4−12 school students ­completed an extensive self-report battery, which included the Impact of Event Scale and the Birleson Depression Inventory. Generalized linear models were constructed to model the effects of multiple covariates on continuous outcome measures of depression and emotional distress.

Results: Significant independent predictors of persisting depressive symptoms were increased symptoms of emotional distress; increased symptoms of anxiety; evacuation experience; and school grade. Significant independent predictors of emotional distress were persisting depressive symptoms; perception of threat to self or to parents; evacuation experience; and school grade. Gender was not a significant predictor in either the depression or emotional distress multivariate models. Complex, non-linear relationships between depression, emotional distress and school grade were found.

Conclusion: This study suggests that important developmental differences in postdisaster psychological responses exist across a broad spectrum of developmental stages in children.