Psychopathology among New York City public school children 6 months after September 11

Christina W. Hoven, Cristiane S. Duarte, Christopher P. Lucas, Ping Wu, Donald J. Mandell, Renee D. Goodwin, Michael Cohen, Victor Balaban, Bradley A. Woodruff, Fan Bin, George J. Musa, Lori Mei, Pamela A. Cantor, J. Lawrence Aber, Patricia Cohen, Ezra Susser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context: Children exposed to a traumatic event may be at higher risk for developing mental disorders. The prevalence of child psychopathology, however, has not been assessed in a population-based sample exposed to different levels of mass trauma or across a range of disorders. Objective: To determine prevalence and correlates of probable mental disorders among New York City, NY, public school students 6 months following the September 11, 2001, World Trade Center attack. Design: Survey. Setting: New York City public schools. Participants: A citywide, random, representative sample of 8236 students in grades 4 through 12, including oversampling in closest proximity to the World Trade Center site (ground zero) and other high-risk areas. Main Outcome Measure: Children were screened for probable mental disorders with the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children Predictive Scales. Results: One or more of 6 probable anxiety/depressive disorders were identified in 28.6% of all children. The most prevalent were probable agoraphobia (14.8%), probable separation anxiety (12.3%), and probable posttraumatic stress disorder (10.6%). Higher levels of exposure correspond to higher prevalence for all probable anxiety/ depressive disorders. Girls and children in grades 4 and 5 were the most affected. In logistic regression analyses, child's exposure (adjusted odds ratio, 1.62), exposure of a child's family member (adjusted odds ratio, 1.80), and the child's prior trauma (adjusted odds ratio, 2.01) were related to increased likelihood of probable anxiety/ depressive disorders. Results were adjusted for different types of exposure, sociodemographic characteristics, and child mental health service use. Conclusions: A high proportion of New York City public school children had a probable mental disorder 6 months after September 11, 2001. The data suggest that there is a relationship between level of exposure to trauma and likelihood of child anxiety/depressive disorders in the community. The results support the need to apply wide-area epidemiological approaches to mental health assessment after any large-scale disaster.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-552
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of General Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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