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Home > Research Articles > UC Irvine Study Looks at Parents' Attempts to Help Teenagers Cope After Terrorist Attacks

AScribe Newswire

Monday, April 21, 2003

AScribe Newswire - April 21, 2003

IRVINE, Calif., April 21 (AScribe Newswire)

But parental attempts to help their teenagers cope were not always effective and sometimes even detrimental, according to a new study by UC Irvine psychologists.

The researchers found that teenagers whose parents encouraged them to cope with the events by sharing their emotions reported lower levels of posttraumatic stress symptoms over time. In contrast, teenagers who didn't talk to their parents -- either because the teens thought doing so wouldn't help or would upset their parents -- actually experienced more stress-related symptoms. In addition, teens who were encouraged by parents to seek support or advice elsewhere also reported higher stress symptoms over time.

The study is being presented at the Society for Research in Child Development biennial meeting in Tampa, Florida, April 24.

"There are a couple of important messages for parents here," said Virginia Gil-Rivas, UCI doctoral researcher. "One is that effective communication is not just giving advice or telling children what to do, but encouraging and allowing them to share their emotions. The study also reveals that it's not the number of times you talk to your children, but the quality of the discussion that matters -- and that's quality from the child's perspective."

In the web-based study, Gil-Rivas and her colleagues surveyed 104 teenagers between ages 13 and 17 from households across the country. Shortly after the attacks, the researchers assessed the teenagers' acute stress symptoms. Then seven months later, they looked at the teenagers' 9/11-related posttraumatic stress symptoms, as well as the specific coping advice and support offered by their parents. In addition, a randomly selected parent from each teen's household completed a companion survey. None of the participants in the study were directly exposed to the attacks.

Gil-Rivas' colleagues in the study were Roxane Cohen Silver, Alison Holman and Michael Poulin of UCI, and Daniel McIntosh of the University of Denver. The National Science Foundation funded the study, which is part of a larger UCI national longitudinal study of psychological responses to Sept. 11.

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