Situations or events that create a serious disruption in the functioning of a community and overwhelm its capacity to deal with the widespread loss and destruction created by the event are called disasters. Disasters can be man-made (9/11, Sandy Hook), natural (Katrina, Harvey, fires), health (COVID-19/Coronavirus), or technological (Chemical Spills, Power Outages). On average, at least one disaster occurs everyday around the world Overstreet (2011).
After a natural disaster, 30-90% of affected children exhibit signs of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. The psychological response of a young child greatly depends on the reactions of their caregivers; new mental problems could directly correlate with new mental problems of their mother. Children lack the language necessary to express helplessness or fear and instead will show their distress in behavioral changes, such as: loss of developmental skills (toileting, speech), sleep problems, and excessive clinginess. Older children will show signs of distress by decreased academic performance, increased inattention, aggressive behaviors, or physical complaints (head/stomach aches).
After a disaster, adults may be too busy dealing with their own lose of job or home to attend to the children's needs. Children may be more concerned with the experience of losing a loved one, close friend, or family pet as a result of a disaster and may pay no attention to the fact their house was swept away in the aftermath flooding. Family members may experience a prolonged health condition (heart disease, diabetic), resulting in death a few months to a year after the disaster. Loss may continue due to the impact of a disaster on the community and its available resources.
Disasters cause a disruption in the normal routine of children and may result in a social disconnect from needed support networks, such as:
25-50% of all children worldwide are affected by child maltreatment, leading to ongoing impacts on physical, social, and emotional health. Parents may experience trauma triggers or fear responses in the first two years (perinatal period) of caring for their distressed child. The long-term effects could lead to intergenerational cycles of trauma, due to the parent's failure to nurture a lasting relationship with the child Chamberlain (2019).
Outcomes of child maltreatment include:
Resilience does not typically develop from a traumatic childhood. The transition to parenthood can also be a time of healing and growth. By restoring a sense of safety through nurturing, supportive relationships.
This transformation positively reinforces elements of healing by replacing the "vicious cycle" with a "virtuous cycle".
Factors that protect against the cycle are:
Three phases of healing include:
Understanding the experience of trauma and "meaning making"
Acting on conscious strategies to address the effects of trauma
Commitment to not pass on the effects of trauma
Death of a family member can include: parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. Attachment theory suggests that humans have a biosocial urge to seek a feeling of security through connection with others in the face of a challenging outside world environment Marks (2007). In the event of a parental death, the lineage placement (or generational transition/leadership) and its accompanying responsibilities/challenges shift as a result. For example, in the absence of a father, the male (most times the eldest, but not always) will feel obligated to step up and take care of his sisters/siblings. In the absence of a mother, the female (usually the eldest) will take on the responsibility of caregiver to the younger siblings and sometimes the grieving father.
A large portion of literature analyzes child mortality and policy interventions, but few shine a spotlight on the effects of child mortality on other family members. Sibling death can impact the remaining children's development and healthy transition into adulthood. Parents view the death of a child as a profound loss that may result in marital problems, depression, health problems, and neglect of the surviving children Fletcher (2013).
Due to the perception of a close friend/pet (or non-kinship) being of lower status than blood relatives, the experience of grieving the death of a friend/pet receives less social support. Physical and emotional support is needed for up to four years after the death. Responses are influenced by:
The death of a marriage (or divorce) can be devastating for the entire family, parents, children, (sometimes grandparents/other relatives), the economy, and society. Many adults feel that open cohabitation relationships are more conducive to personal development. If a relationship does not provide personal happiness, then parents believe that divorce or separation is best and will not be detrimental to the function of the family. Before no-fault divorce laws, only the most dysfunctional marriages ended in divorce because legal procedures were difficult and expensive Anderson (2014).
As a result of a divorce, children may:
And I believe the children of adoption suffer the trauma of separation from the biological mother; placement in foster homes or orphanages; separation again if finally adopted – all disruptions that certainly could and most likely do, contribute to the high number of troubled teen and adult adoptees with a myriad of mental & physical illnesses in higher numbers than their age-peers.
Birth order - Groomed selection
Older child leaves - Younger child remember suffering more
Older child is selected - Younger children never approached - different memory
Absent Parents - Unknown foster/adopted/hush child/died-raised by grandparents
Anniversary anxiety - death of parent, day of accident/event
Anderson J. (2014). The impact of family structure on the health of children: Effects of divorce. The Linacre quarterly, 81(4), 378–387. https://doi.org/10.1179/0024363914Z.00000000087
Chamberlain, C., Gee, G., Harfield, S., Campbell, S., Brennan, S., Clark, Y., Mensah, F., Arabena, K., Herrman, H., Brown, S., & ‘Healing the Past by Nurturing the Future’ group. (2019). Parenting after a history of childhood maltreatment: A scoping review and map of evidence in the perinatal period. PloS one, 14(3), e0213460. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0213460
Fletcher, J., Mailick, M., Song, J., & Wolfe, B. (2013). A sibling death in the family: common and consequential. Demography, 50(3), 803–826. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-012-0162-4
Liu, W-M., Forbat, L., Anderson, K. (2019). Death of a close friend:Shortand long-term impacts on physical, psychological and social well-being. PLoSONE 14 (4):e0214838.https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0218026
Marks, N. F., Jun, H., & Song, J. (2007). Death of Parents and Adult Psychological and Physical Well-Being: A Prospective U.S. National Study. Journal of family issues, 28(12), 1611–1638. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X07302728
Overstreet. S., Salloum, A., Burch, B., & West, J. (2011). Challenges Associated with Childhood Exposure to Severe Natural Disasters: Research Review and Clinical Implications, Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 4(1), 52-68. DOI:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19361521.2011.545103