Psychological Effects of Natural Disasters Research Paper

Pages: 15 (5642 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Children

Psychological Effects of Natural Disasters

This research paper aims at finding out if there are any psychological effects that victims of disasters face after the disaster. Additionally, it will look into the steps that should be taken to deal with such cases that may exist and will conclude by assessing the implications of such effects to the individuals and the community at large. In a bid to obtain such information, a lot of literature will be studied and reviewed and all that will be presented will be pegged on facts and data that have been presented by different researchers.

The term disaster is a Latin derivative involving the terms dis and astrum, which mean against and stars respectively, thus "the stars are evil" (Farber 1967). The definition of disaster can be in terms of a physical driving force and its consequences (Dynes 1974) and viewed as a life threatening situation, abrupt destruction, injury, and loss of property and life. A number of these conceptualizations of disaster lay emphasis on the component of social disturbance that frequently come hand in hand with such situations.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Research Paper on Psychological Effects of Natural Disasters This Research Assignment

In history, the origin of research purposed for psychologically focused disaster can be traced to psychoanalytic studies which were carried out in response to the severe stress during and subsequent to the Second World War which mainly affected the soldiers and survivors in the concentration camps. From that time on this field has experienced significant expansion with similar researches being done on almost all disasters that take place. The findings from all these researches have indicated that there are significant psychological effects that individuals suffer in relation to the disasters that they experience or those close to them go through. There are a number of difficulties that limit the ability to generalize about psychological effects of disaster; these comprise issues such the differences in the methodologies used, instruments, time frames, definition of populations, and samples. There has been a lot of improvement in the research into the effects of disaster over the past years even though differences in methodologies and conceptualizations still exist.

There are a number of factors that have led to this situation, first and foremost are that a number of clinicians and behavioral scientists have carried out studies concerning disasters and have come up with concepts regarding potential effects of disaster in many varied ways, most of which are not psycho-pathologically associated. Primary investigators of disaster effects, such as community and social psychologists and sociologists, have not expected or evaluated critical forms of mental disorders as aftermath of these events. Somewhat, common indications of psychological distress and mild "problems of living" have been examined. Conversely, clinicians have had the tendency of seeing the worst and have been the ones describing the nature and quality of more serious reactions to catastrophic events.

The purpose of this report is to address the assessment of the effects of disasters and the possible solutions to such problems, the specific focus is on the psychological effects on the people who face these disasters and how the individuals can be assisted to come out of the situation and to cope with the situations that they face. The study will focus on various groups of people having different positions in the family such as the parents and the children.


Most of the previous researches have concentrated on studying the psychological effects of disaster on the minority groups, the memory of children, and on the parents. This paper will look into the last two categories since they are the most crucial and studying them will cover the whole population. This will cover the different reactions that they have for disasters and the possible remedies to the problems that they undergo after a disaster.

Effects on children

A child reacts to disaster depending on the amount of destruction and loss that he/she has witnessed as a result of the disaster. If the disaster causes loss or serious injury of a family member, a friend or a teacher, or if such facilities as school, home, or neighborhood that are relevant to the child are destroyed, then there are high chances that the child will experience difficulty in adjusting. Another determining factor is also the age of the child which will influence the response to disaster. For instance, a 5-year-old may indicate his/her agonies by reverting to behaviors that had been outgrown, while adolescents may defend themselves emotionally by creating a distance between themselves and their parents, friends, and family (American Academy of Child and Adolescents Psychiatry 2005). The most general reactions to disaster observed in children closely reflect those exhibited in other circumstances where separation and stress are principal concerns. Assisting children during these intensely hard situations requires attentiveness to an enormous array of psychosocial responses that children might display.

There is a tendency among infants of showing signs of anxiety mostly reflective of the parents or adults who take care of them. When caretakers and parents get stressed due to disaster, infants are likely to get affected, which may include exhibiting variations in sleep, levels of responsiveness, and eating patterns. These effects may also include incidences of irritability, and amplified surprise response, or indifference (Murray 2002). In some instances, infants show signs of weakening and even detachment, especially if the disaster resulted into separation of the child and the primary caretaker as it may be in a case of evacuation or loss of parent. The effect that toddlers face in such disasters will be more than that of infants, particularly if it led to separation from the primary caretaker, this being too common in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Toddlers will tend to be depressed and withdrawn, going in search of adults to get attention and comfort at a level higher than was required previously. Similar to infants, toddlers may also indicate changes in sleeping and eating habits (Murray 2002). Reactions that draw particular attention within this age group are signs like persistent nightmares, sleep terrors, clinging behavior, and increased temper paroxysms.

The response of a child of preschool age may include regress and exhibiting severe vulnerability, lack of awareness of their physical surrounding, meekness, and at time guilt and fear. The kinds of fears that are persistent are such as those of being permanently separated from parents as well as a feeling of guilt that they have a hand in the disaster. This age group will usually also show a larger number of usually self-limited somatic grumbles such as headaches, stomachaches, and dizziness (American Academy of Child and Adolescents Psychiatry 2005). School age children are in a better position to understand the nature of events taking place during a disaster. Nevertheless, in spite of their greater cognitive and emotional development, they are still fairly susceptible to stress reactions. The fear of children in this age group is that for their own safety as well as for that of the members of their family. This leads to complications while sleeping with their sleep characterized by screaming and nightmares which eventually affects school performance and variations in moods. It is also possible that they express gloom, listlessness, reduced activity, and obsession with the events of the disaster (American Academy of Child and Adolescents Psychiatry 2005).

The understanding of adolescents is better and at a level closer to that of adults, though they are predominantly vulnerable group due to the fact that they are undergoing a period of intricate changes. Teens may involve in behaviors that are risky as a mechanism of dealing with inconceivable stress. Even though they may show reactions such as delinquency, acting out, resentment and poor school performance, it is possible to observe constructive behaviors such as taking over additional responsibilities, contributing to the process of recovery, and giving support to other victims (Plum 2003).

Maureen, et al. (1993) wrote a report on a research that had been carried out in Bangladesh which aimed at examining children both before and after a flood disaster to determine if stressful events play a part in behavioral disorders development in children. In carrying out the research, structured measures of selected behavioral hitches were made six months before the disaster. This was an epidemiological study of disability in children between the ages of 2 to 9 years. A representative sample of 162 surviving children was re-evaluated five months after the flood disaster. The findings in this research was that there was an increase in prevalence of aggressive behavior which on assessment was found to rise from zero percent to about ten percent. It was also discovered that about thirty four percent of children who had bladder control prior to the flood developed enuresis. These may be indications of posttraumatic distress in childhood which points out to the importance of the need to develop and evaluate involvements aimed at improving the psychological and behavioral consequences of the exposure of children to severe and traumatic conditions.

There have been studies carried out to find the long-term effects of distressing experiences on children and most have revealed… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Psychological Effects of Natural Disasters.  (2010, March 27).  Retrieved October 26, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Psychological Effects of Natural Disasters."  27 March 2010.  Web.  26 October 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Psychological Effects of Natural Disasters."  March 27, 2010.  Accessed October 26, 2021.