Children's reactions to Hurricane Andrew: A forty-four month follow-up study

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Annette La Greca - Committee Chair


Little is known about children's long-term adjustment following a disaster. Thus, the current study was conducted as a 44-month follow-up investigation, examining children's reactions to Hurricane Andrew over time. Previous data collection was conducted at 3, 7, and 10 months post-hurricane with a sample of 442 children. Subjects at follow-up were a subset of the original sample, consisting of 43 children who had continued to report high levels of PTSD symptomatology 10 months post-hurricane. At follow-up, children were in grades six through eight at various South Florida schools.The first objective was to examine the persistence of children's PTSD symptomatology (total symptoms, symptom cluster scores, full PTSD diagnosis) utilizing multi-method (questionnaire and structured interview), multi-informant (both child- and parent-report) assessment. The second objective was to utilize an established conceptual model to examine factors related to the persistence of children's symptomatology. Factors in the model include exposure to disaster-related traumatic experiences, pre-existing child characteristics (age, gender, ethnicity), aspects of the post-disaster recovery environment (social support, intervening life events, parents' PTSD symptomatology), and the child's coping strategies.Results indicated that a surprising number of children continued to report severe symptomatology 44 months after Hurricane Andrew; sixteen children (40%) continued to qualify for a full PTSD diagnosis. Re-experiencing symptoms were most frequently endorsed (92.5%), followed by hyperarousal (80%) and avoidance/psychic numbing symptoms (45%). Child questionnaire and child structured interview responses corresponded highly. However, significant differences were found between parent- and child-report of children's symptomatology (children reported considerably more symptoms).With regard to the conceptual model, ethnic minority children, as well as children who had greater hurricane-related exposure, more recent life events, and/or lower levels of social support at 44 months post-hurricane were less likely to evidence decreases in symptomatology over time. Parents' PTSD symptomatology was not significantly related to children's continuing symptomatology.Findings illustrate that a substantial number of children may continue to experience significant long-term disaster-related symptomatology. Further, findings indicated the utility of the conceptual model in predicting children's long-term PTSD symptomatology, and suggested some risk factors for persistence of symptomatology. Potential implications for intervention and future research are discussed.


Psychology, Clinical

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