Children's Well-being 11 Years After the Chornobyl Catastrophe

E. J. Bromet
2000 Archives of General Psychiatry  
The psychological effects of technological disasters have rarely been studied in children. This study assessed the aftermath of the 1986 Chornobyl disaster in children evacuated to Kyiv from the contaminated zone surrounding the nuclear power facility. Methods: In 1997, we evaluated three hundred 10-to 12-year-old children in Kyiv who were in utero or infants at the time of the disaster and who had resided near Chornobyl (evacuees) and 300 sex-matched homeroom classmates who had never lived in
more » ... radiation-contaminated area. Response rates were 92% (evacuees) and 85% (classmates). Data were obtained from children, mothers, and teachers using standard measures of well-being and risk factors for childhood psychopathology. The children also received physical examinations and basic blood tests. Results: The evacuees and classmates perceived their mental health similarly except for Chornobyl-related anxi-ety symptoms and perceived scholastic competence. No differences were found on the Iowa Conners' Teacher Rating Scale. Although the physical examination and blood test results were normal, the evacuee mothers rated their children's well-being as significantly worse, especially with respect to somatic symptoms on the Children's Somatization Inventory and Child Behavior Checklist. The most important risk factors for these ratings were maternal somatization and Chornobyl-related stress. Conclusions: Given the multiple stressful experiences to which evacuee families were exposed, the small differences in the children's self-reports suggest that there are protective factors in the lives of these children. The trauma experienced by the mothers was reflected in their perceptions of their children's well-being, particularly somatic symptoms, but was not transmitted to the children themselves.
doi:10.1001/archpsyc.57.6.563 pmid:10839334 fatcat:57e3ovnwenbj5mfhqpvphtaoee