The present study represents the first longitudinal research on PTSD following an earthquake conducted in the United States. This investigation was designed to address PTSD prevalence and predictive factors of PTSD and depressive symptoms following the 1994 Northridge, CA earthquake. Self-report data for 109 children and adolescents ranging in age from 6 to13 years were examined one-month post-quake (Time 1). Longitudinal evaluation of 96 and 80 subjects was conducted at one and two years post-quake (Times 2 and 3). Information about the children’s PTSD symptoms was also collected from the mothers of the participants. Reports of PTSD symptomatology were obtained using the Child PTSD Reaction Index (PTSD-RI).
Our major findings included the following: (1) 54% of children reported moderate to severe PTSD symptoms at 1 month post-quake. The high proportion of endorsed psychopathology in the sample reduced significantly over time with 17% and 11% endorsing moderate to severe PTSD symptoms one year and two years after the earthquake, respectively. (2) Overall, girls reported higher scores than boys across time. (3) Younger children reported higher RI scores than older children across time. (4) PTSD-RI scores decreased across time for both ages and genders. (5) Parent-child agreement across time was significant, and (6) higher levels of PTSD symptomatology were reported at 1 and 2 years post-quake by those children who had higher PTSD scores at Time 1 and by females. Clinical implications for treatment and future directions are discussed.
"The route through childhood is shaped by many forces, and it differs for each of us. Our biological inheritance, the temperament with which we are born, the care we receive, our family relationships, the place where we grow up, the schools we attend, the culture in which we participate, and the historical period in which we live — all these affect the paths we take through childhood and condition the remainder of our lives."