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Evidence-based practice requires the use of data grounded in theory with clear conceptualization and reliable and valid measurement. Unfortunately, developing a knowledge base regarding children’s coping in the context of disasters, terrorism, and war has been hampered by a lack of theoretical consensus and a virtual absence of rigorous test construction, implementation, and evaluation. This report presents a comprehensive review of measurement tools assessing child and adolescent coping in the aftermath of mass trauma, with a particular emphasis on coping dimensions identified through factor analytic procedures. Coping measurement and issues related to the assessment of coping are reviewed. Concepts important in instrument development and psychometric features of coping measures used in disasters, terrorism, and war are presented. The relationships between coping dimensions and both youth characteristics and clinical outcomes also are presented. A discussion of the reviewed findings highlights the difficulty clinicians may experience when trying to integrate the inconsistencies in coping dimensions across studies. Incorporating the need for multiple informants and the difference between general and context-specific coping measures suggests the importance of a multilevel, theoretical conceptualization of coping and thus, the use of more advanced statistical measures. Attention also is given to issues deemed important for further exploration in child disaster coping research.
PfefferbaumB, NitiémaP, JacobsAK, NoffsingerMA, WindLH, AllenSF. Review of Coping in Children Exposed to Mass Trauma: Measurement Tools, Coping Styles, and Clinical Implications. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2016;31(2):169–180.
Exposure to mass trauma has contributed to increasing concern about the well-being of children, families, and communities. In spite of global awareness of the dramatic impact of mass trauma on youth, little is known about how children and adolescents cope with and adapt to disasters and terrorism. While coping has yet to be fully conceptualized as a unified construct, the process of responding to stress includes recognized cognitive, emotional, and behavioral components. Unfortunately, research on the complex process of adaptation in the aftermath of mass trauma is a relatively recent focus. Further study is needed to build consensus in terminology, theory, methods, and assessment techniques to assist researchers and clinicians in measuring children's coping, both generally and within the context of mass trauma. Advancements are needed in the area of coping assessment to identify internal and external factors affecting children's stress responses. Additionally, enhanced understanding of children's disaster coping can inform the development of prevention and intervention programs to promote resilience in the aftermath of traumatic events. This article examines the theoretical and practical issues in assessing coping in children exposed to mass trauma, and includes recommendations to guide assessment and research of children's coping within this specialized context.
Pfefferbaum B, Noffsinger MA, Wind LH. Issues in the assessment of children's coping in the context of mass trauma. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2012;27(3):1-8.
This chapter summarizes the complex ways in which people experience disasters. These experiences are organized into categories of traumatic stressors, loss, ongoing adversities, and community effects and meanings. The chapter explores the most acutely severe and personally traumatic aspects of disaster exposure: loss of life and traumatic bereavement; threat to life, injury, and fear; and witnessing of horror. Damage to home and property, often accompanied by financial loss, may be the prototypical stressor associated with natural disasters. The acutely stressful experiences of trauma and loss are followed by a host of challenges associated with poor housing conditions, rebuilding, and other stressors in the postdisaster environment. Postdisaster stressors are typically captured in disaster research by measures of stressful life events or chronic stress. Development and validation of quantitative measures that encompass both universal and culture-specific responses to trauma could help address current cross-cultural and transnational assessment challenges.