This study examined the association between parents’ and children’s posttraumatic stress reactions after the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia in 2004. Parents of 319 Norwegian children and adolescents aged 6-18 years reported on children’s exposure to the tsunami and children’s immediate subjective responses. The Child Stress Disorder Checklist was used to measure children’s posttraumatic stress reactions 6-8 months after the tsunami, and the Impact of Event Scale Revised measured parental PTSD. Results indicated that parents’ posttraumatic stress reactions significantly predicted PTSD reactions in their children. The strongest association was found for parental intrusive reactions and hyperarousal. Highly exposed children seemed to be more vulnerable to parental distress compared to children with lower levels of exposure. The study demonstrates that parental distress can endure and worsen the impact of a disaster in children. In assessments of trauma-related consequences and in therapeutic work with children clinicians need to expand the focus to include their parents and family.
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