Parents play an important role in helping their children process and interpret significant sociohistorical events. However, little is known about how parents frame these experiences or the specific social, cultural, and civic messages they may communicate about the event. In this study, we examined self-reported communication of parents from six communities in the United States with their adolescents about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Parents' (N = 972) open-ended responses about September 11th were analyzed to assess whether communication with their adolescents occurred and for thematic content. Results revealed marked variability in parents' communication and suggest that many parents used September 11th as an opportunity to impart sociocultural, emotional, and civic messages. Identifying the diversity in parents' responses aligns with the tenets of Terror Management Theory and provides insights into the roles of parents in translating pivotal historical moments. Collectively, these findings yield important implications for civic socialization.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This longitudinal study examines the effects of exposure to the terrorist attack of September 11th as well as exposure to other forms of community violence on change in the mental health and social attitudes of youths in New York City. Three quarters of the youths reported some form of direct exposure to the events of September 11th, and 80% reported a lot of exposure to at least 1 form of media coverage of September 11th; these rates were comparable with the citywide survey of public school students in New York City conducted by the New York City Department of Education. Results of a structural equation model that included controls for previous levels of mental health and social attitudes, as well as a range of demographic factors, indicated that direct exposure and family exposure to the event did not predict change in any mental health outcomes, but did predict change in levels of social mistrust; media exposure did predict posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. In contrast, victimization by other forms of violence was strongly associated with change in or current levels of all of the examined mental health symptoms, whereas witnessing other forms of violence was associated with change in or levels of 3 of 4 mental health symptoms and with increased hostile attribution bias and levels of social mistrust. Implications of the results for applied developmental and public mental health strategies in response to traumatic events are discussed.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Six studies examined the role of young adults' parental attachment in terror management. Studies 1-3 revealed that activating thoughts of one's parent in response to mortality salience (MS) reduced death-thought accessibility and worldview defense and increased feelings of self-worth. Studies 4-5 demonstrated that MS led to greater ease of recalling positive maternal interactions and greater difficulty recalling negative interactions, and increased attraction to a stranger who was described as being similar to one's parent. If reliance on parents for terror management purposes reflects the operation of attachment mechanisms, then such effects should vary on the basis of an individual's attachment style. Study 6 demonstrated that, after MS, insecure individuals were more likely to rely on relationships with their parents, whereas secure individuals were more likely to rely on relationships with romantic partners.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 05/2008; 94(4):696-717. DOI:10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2066 · 5.08 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To examine the emotional and behavioral impact of terrorism on children across the country, telephone interviews were conducted with a national probability sample of 395 parents of 5- to 18-year-old children from November 9 to 28, 2001. Parents reported on child emotional and behavioral reactions to terrorism, parent-child discussions about terrorism, and terrorism-related school activities. Thirty percent of parents reported more than 4 terrorism-related emotional or behavioral reactions in their child. Latinos and parents with lower household incomes reported greater terrorism-related reactions in children. Thirty-eight percent of parents reported talking with their child about terrorism for 1 hr or more in the week prior to the interview. Topics of terrorism-related parent-child discussions included the child's fears for his or her own safety, taking precautions against anthrax, and avoiding large gathering places. Children's emotional and behavioral reactions were positively associated with the frequency of parents' discussions about all 3 topics; the last 2 precautionary topics were also more common in households where respondents had less education, were non-White, and had lower household incomes. Two-thirds of parents also reported activities in their child's school in response to terrorism, such as conducting special classroom activities or assemblies (44%), providing counseling for students (44%), and providing materials or information for parents (44%) to help children cope. Significant differences in terrorism-related topics discussed and symptoms reported among different sociodemographic groups suggest that the impact of terrorism may be unevenly distributed across society, which has important implications for terrorism preparedness and response policies.
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