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Children and the Boston Marathon Bombings

A study was conducted by Jonathan Comer, an associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at Florida International University in Miami, which looked into the psychological effects of the Boston Marathon bombings on kids. This study included 460 children between the ages of 4 to19 years old, living within a 25 mile radius of where the bombings took place. Comer was looking to find out how many of these children either exposed directly or through the media, were seeing symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Eleven-percent of parents who were also surveyed said that their child has shown signs of PTSD. This number was very similar to the findings among New York City children after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

It was reported that the children watched on average 1.5 hours of bombing and manhunt coverage per day and one in five watched more than three hours each day. Only one-third of parents tried to restrict their children’s media exposure. Child physiologist, Rose Alvarez-Salvat said, “If there is a child who shouldn’t be watching an R-rated movie, they shouldn’t be watching news coverage that shows the same amount of violence or aggressive behavior.” The best advice Comer had for these kinds of tragedies is to limit exposure of media coverage and give your child an opportunity to ask plenty of questions.

Researchers did not follow up the families after the study, so they do not have a number of how many children received an official PTSD diagnosis. “The symptoms of PTSD can fade with time”, says Comer, “and that’s more likely with family support.” Talk therapy or psychotherapy can help, experts say.

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