Child Development in the Context of Disaster, War, and Terrorism: Pathways of Risk and Resilience

This review draws on research conducted into the effects of extreme adversities that lead to mass trauma, such as natural disasters, terrorism, and war, on child development. It highlights fundamental adaptive systems that help build resilience among children and youth facing extreme adversities and emphasises the importance of parental figures and of restoring high quality schooling and play opportunities in displaced children’s lives.

This review highlights progress over the past decade in research on the effects of mass trauma experiences on children and youth, focusing on natural disasters, war, and terrorism. Conceptual advances are reviewed in terms of prevailing risk and resilience frameworks that guide basic and translational research. Recent evidence on common components of these models is evaluated, including dose effects, mediators and moderators, and the individual or contextual differences that predict risk or resilience. New research horizons with profound implications for health and well-being are discussed, particularly in relation to plausible models for biological embedding of extreme stress. Strong consistencies are noted in this literature, suggesting guidelines for disaster preparedness and response. At the same time, there is a notable shortage of evidence on effective interventions for child and youth victims. Practical and theory-informative research on strategies to protect children and youth victims and promote their resilience is a global priority.

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