Preventing children's posttraumatic stress after disaster with teacher-based intervention: A controlled study

Elsevier, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 50, April 2011
Wolmer L., Hamiel D., Laor N.

Objective: The psychological outcomes that the exposure to mass trauma has on children have been amply documented in the past decades. The objective of this study is to describe the effects of a universal, teacher-based preventive intervention implemented with Israeli students before the rocket attacks that occurred during Operation Cast Lead, compared with a nonintervention but exposed control group. Method: The study sample consisted of 1,488 students studying in fourth and fifth grades in a city in southern Israel who were exposed to continuous rocket attacks during Operation Cast Lead. The intervention group included about half (53.5%) of the children who studied in six schools where the teacher-led intervention was implemented 3 months before the traumatic exposure. The control group (46.5% of the sample) included six schools matched by exposure in which the preventive intervention was not implemented. Children filled out the UCLA-PTSD Reaction Index and the Stress/Mood Scale 3 months after the end of the rocket attacks. Results: The intervention group displayed significantly lower symptoms of posttrauma and stress/mood than the control group (p < .001). Control children had 57% more detected cases of postraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than participant children. This difference was significantly more pronounced among boys (10.2% versus 4.4%) and less among girls (12.5% versus10.1%). Conclusions: The teacher-based, resilience-focused intervention is a universal, cost-effective approach to enhance the preparedness of communities of children to mass trauma and to prevent the development of PTSD after exposure. © 2011 American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.