Disasters occur once a day on average in the world. As traumatic events, they are potentially strong stressors due to their disruptive nature, high extent of impact, production of terror and horror scenes, undesirable and uncontrollable occurrences, and prolonged alterations in the social and physical environment. Disaster-related distress and life disruption of even a year or less may negatively affect children. Parental adjustment after a disaster impacts child psychosocial adjustment;however, the social cognitive, coping, and communication processes that interact between parents and children need further study. These processes may be the mediators of post-disaster child psychosocial adjustment, and results can guide the development of child- and family-focused interventions.
The aims of this study are to: (1) understand the relations between the post- disaster social cognitive and coping processes of parents and youth over time and how this influences youth psychosocial adjustment;(2) examine what parent-child communicative processes positively and negatively affect youth psychosocial adjustment following a disaster. We will specifically explore the interdependence that parent and child adjustment has on one another. We will survey 410 sets of parents and youth (age 11-17 years) affected by the summer, 2012 and 2013, wildfires in Colorado Springs, CO, three times over a two-year recovery period. In combination, these wildfires threatened the state's second most populated city resulting in the evacuation of 65,000 people, four deaths, and the loss of around 850 homes. We will use internet-based surveys to ask parents and youth about their wildfire exposure, life stressors since the disaster, mental health, covitality, social cognitions, emotion regulation, communication patterns, communal coping, and parent-child relationship. Potential participants will be directed to a recruitment website or 1-800 phone numbers for the study. They will be given a study description, consent forms, and will be asked to provide contact information, basic demographics, and brief screening questions on exposure to the wildfires. A database of potential participants will be set up with potential "replicate" participants in case of non-response. A first sample representative of the demographics of the affected area will be contacted and each potential participant will be provided with an individualized URL for the appropriate survey. Unique, but linked, identifiers will be assigned to parents and youth to protect confidentiality while enabling longitudinal tracking and pairing of data. The relationship between parent and child psychosocial adjustment post-disaster will be analyzed using a parallel process growth mixture model. This complex statistical model simultaneously models the parent and child psychological outcomes and how they unfold together after a disaster, while accounting for trajectory differences that may occur in each one. This model is a combination of two Growth Mixture Models, one for the parents and one for the child. Results can guide public health response in terms of empirically informing post-disaster guidelines and services to help parents help their children.

Public Health Relevance

This research examines the interdependence of parent and child psychosocial adjustment over the long-term recovery period after a disaster. How family members manage their thoughts, emotions, coping, and relationships after a disaster, like the Colorado wildfires, can affect the functioning of one another. Results of this project can help guide supportive services for families post-disaster.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Developmental Biology Subcommittee (CHHD)
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Maholmes, Valerie
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University of California Santa Barbara
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Santa Barbara
United States
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