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Pre-attack stress-load, appraisals, and coping in children's responses to the 9/11 terrorist attacks


  • Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared.

Liliana Lengua, University of Washington, Psychology, Box 351525, Seattle, WA, 98195, USA; Email:


Background:  Appraisal and coping following a disaster are important factors in children's post-traumatic stress (PTS) symptoms. However, little is known about predictors of disaster coping responses. This study examined stress-load, appraisals and coping styles measured prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks as predictors of 9/11-specific appraisals, coping and PTS.

Methods:  A community sample of children and parents (N = 143) participating in an ongoing study were interviewed by phone approximately 1 month following 9/11.

Results:  Pre-attack stress-load, appraisal and coping styles predicted children's 9/11-specific appraisals, coping, and PTS. 9/11-specific threat appraisals and avoidant coping predicted higher PTS and mediated the effects of pre-attack stress-load and threat appraisal.

Conclusions:  Pre-disaster stress-load, appraisal and coping styles predict disaster-specific appraisal and coping, which in turn, contribute to PTS. Coping interventions might mitigate PTS symptoms following a disaster.