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Hurricane Harvey likely to trigger post-traumatic stress in children, expert says

August 29, 2017

Image of Professor Russell T. Jones
Russell Jones studies trauma psychology in the areas of natural and technological disasters

As flood waters recede, families along the Gulf Coast need to watch for post-traumatic stress among children and adolescents, says a Virginia Tech expert in trauma psychology in the areas of natural and technological disasters. 

 “Symptoms will likely include flashbacks, nightmares, anger, lack of concentration, and sleep problems,” said Professor Russell Jones. “Those who were most impacted by the flood, such as having to evacuate, being rescued, having difficulty finding shelter, almost drowning, or knowing someone who died are most likely to show such symptoms.”

Additionally, those who were experiencing previous difficulties, or possess a previous psychological disorder are at greater likelihood for developing such symptoms and disorders.

Quoting Professor Jones

On how parents model behavior: “Young children may have less difficulty coping with the storm due to their inability to fully comprehend what has taken place. One predictor of how well they will do is often based on how well parents do. Parents who exhibit appropriate methods of coping will have children who also cope well. Those parents who show great difficulty will have children who show similar patterns of difficulty.”

On the risk of overprotection: “Parents may find themselves overprotective of their children because of this experience. Unfortunately, such overprotection has been found to lead to negative consequences.”

On factors that mitigate: “Psychologists have focused on five factors that will help to mitigate the psychological fallout of an event like Harvey.  Those include promoting a sense of safety, sense of calming, self and collective efficacy, connectedness, and hope.”

On possible positive outcomes: “There can be growth following such events. Following Hurricane Katrina, one study found victims had a greater love for family members, they felt that they were better able to cope with the storm than they thought, and greater faith and spirituality.”

Read Jones’ Bio

To secure a print or broadcast interview with Russell Jones, contact Bill Foy at 540-231-8719 or 540-998-0288.

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