Affiliation: Weill Cornell Medical College, 21 Bloomingdale Road, White Plains, New York 10605, USA.
Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 the immediate and longer term effects of disasters on development and well-being of children and adolescents who survive them have been significant public and mental health issues. Young people exposed to a traumatic event are at higher risk for developing mental disorders, but not all are affected equally. The impact of a disaster is affected by many individual, family and community variables. Knowledge of moderating effects has increased with the many studies that have been done on the effects of disasters, before and since September 11, 2001. Effective interventions exist to help mitigate the effects and promote resilience in individuals, families and communities. This article reviews the literature on effects of disasters, including the authors own research that showed sustained alterations in cortisol levels in children and adolescents whose parents were killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center buildings in New York City. Recommendations are given about future research needs and preventive interventions.