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Child Reactions to Terrorism: Cautions and Next Steps for Research

Authors


Address correspondence to Alan E. Kazdin, Department of Psychology, Yale University, PO Box 208205, New Haven, CT 06520-8205. E-mail: alan.kazdin@yale.edu.

Abstract

Comer and Kendall (2007) have provided an excellent review of what is known about the effects of terrorism on children. They have identified correlates, outcomes, and the many gaps in our current knowledge. The present comments focus on two main issues. First, there are many correlates and risk factors that predict deleterious outcomes following exposure to terrorist acts. Our field occasionally moves quickly to intervention work by altering malleable risk factors as if they played a causal role in the outcome or its amelioration. More work is needed to analyze these correlates and the precise role they play, if any, in the outcome. Second, in a relatively new area of research there are very many gaps in our knowledge. I discuss the need to prioritize and limit the focus of our studies. Priorities highlighted include evaluating the similarities among natural and human-made disasters and evaluating mechanisms of action among correlates that might bear an important role in child outcomes. Apart from the consequences of terrorist acts on children and families, our field must turn to the broader issue. What can our science do alone and in conjunction with other fields to understand and combat the precursors and origins of terrorism? Theory will be wonderful but we will need to have this grounded or tested to ensure we move beyond reasonable ideas or a lavish buffet of untestable interpretations.

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