The Effects of Perceived Life Threat and Direct Exposure on Psychopathology in Parents and Their Young Children Following the September 11th, 2001 World Trade Center Attacks

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Virginia Tech


The impact of the September 11th, 2001 World Trade Center attacks was expansive in nature, and so many people were deeply affected by this disaster. In the years following this attack, many researchers attempted to assess this level of impact. Data point to increased prevalence rates of posttraumatic stress and depressive symptomatology among adults and a variety of difficulties among children following trauma. Additionally, research has shown that geographic proximity to a traumatic event plays a role in identifying those with increased psychological distress. One's subjective experience of a traumatic event, and in particular, one's perception of threat to life, also appears to be important in the identification of those in need. Moreover, understanding the psychological effects of individuals who have experienced a traumatic event is essential to the effective screening and identification of those in need of mental health services. As such, the purpose of this study was to examine the ability of geographic exposure and the perceived life threat to predict psychological outcomes in parents and their young children following the World Trade Center attacks in New York City. Additionally, the moderational roles of race/ethnicity and socio-economic status were also examined. Neither maternal geographic exposure nor perception of life threat significantly predicted mental health outcomes in mothers or their young children. However, socio-economic status significantly moderated the relationship between maternal geographic exposure and children's externalizing behaviors. Finally, the effect of race/ethnicity approached significance for maternal PTSD symptoms; however, no significant moderation was found.



depression, PTSD, exposure, trauma, perceived life threat, young children