Whilst there has been a lot of research conducted upon the psychological and physiological effects of the 9/11 tragedy on adults, far less has been conducted on children who witnessed that appalling tragedy. However, researchers at Columbia University have helped to redress this imbalance.by carrying out a study on in excess of one thousand individuals (using face-to-face interviews, self-reporting and parental reporting) who were children at the time of the disaster and were in close proximity to the towers at the time it occurred.

The study was carried out fifteen years after 9/11 and the individuals interviewed who were involved in the study were between the ages of 17 years and early thirties when they were assessed by the researchers.

Essentially, it was found that those individuals who had direct experience of the tragedy suffered significantly more psychological and physical problems after the terrible event than those who had not (a matched control group of 500 individuals).

More detailed results of the study are as follows:

36 per cent of individuals who had been directly exposed to 9/11 had suffered a psychiatric disorder in the year prior to the study compared to only twenty-eight per cent in the individuals who had not been directly exposed to it (i.e. those individuals making up the control group).

  • 27 per cent of individuals who had been directly exposed to 9/11 had a lifetime physical health condition compared to only 11 per cent of individuals from the control group.
  • 14 per cent of individuals who had been directly exposed to 9/11 had suffered both psychological and physical health problems compared to 4 per cent from the control group.
  • individuals who had been directly exposed to 9/11 had significantly functional impairment than those from the control group.

Another study, conducted by researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that children directly exposed to 9/11 were at increased risk of developing significant behavioural problems, aggression, sleep difficulties, depression and anxiety. if their mothers had developed PTSD or depression as a result of the tragedy.

Very interestingly, this second study also found that the psychological problems that the mother had developed as a result of 9/11 had a greater adverse effect upon their child’s mental health than the child’s own direct exposure to the disaster. This finding emphasizes the crucial importance of the mother-child relationship in early life on the child’s mental health.




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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).