Theses Doctoral

The Play Behaviors of Young Children Exposed to a Traumatic Event

Smith, Erica Lynne

This study examined the relationship between exposures to a traumatic event and play behaviors of child witnesses to the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in 2001, using a subsample of 71 children from the NYC Young Children's Project (NYCYCP) interviewed 9-12 months after the event. Child Behavior Checklist broadband scales revealed little disturbance in the total sample. As expected, a larger percentage of children met alternative PTSD diagnostic criteria than DSM-IV diagnostic criteria. Through level of change in observed play behaviors in the exposed children, this study explored impact of a traumatic event. Analysis of the change in child play behavior in Pre-WTC mention and Post-WTC mention segments of the videotaped interviews revealed common themes in the play behaviors seen in other studies of trauma exposed children, such as aggression, anxiety, generalized fears, and event specific fears. This study describes strategies of self-soothing and self-regulation used by the children as they recounted their experience. The findings suggest that through play behaviors, young children are able to supplement verbal report and provide self-reported complex internalized affective experiences when impacted by traumatic experiences. Additionally, the study reveals that the children were impacted by their experience of the event 9-12 months later.



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More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Thesis Advisors
Teitler, Julien O.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 27, 2011