In a study on adolescent depression following terror attacks, Professor Golan Shahar of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel, and Professor Christopher Henrich of Georgia State University, report that social support experienced by these adolescents seems to protect against depression. The research paper will be published in the upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
The study followed middle school students in the Israeli city of Sderot who have experienced seven years of ongoing terror attacks by Qassam rockets launched from the nearby Gaza Strip. Researchers examined whether higher levels of baseline social support protected the adolescents from adverse psychological effects of exposure to repeated trauma.
Twenty-nine participants were evaluated before and after a five-month period from May to September 2007, when daily rocket attacks from Gaza increased significantly. Both evaluations measured adolescent self-reported depression, social support from family, friends and school in the context of the ongoing rocket attacks. According to Shahar, "This provided an exceptional and unique opportunity to examine risk and resilience processes in such a heavily burdened population."
The findings indicate that a strong support system for adolescents could cushion the effects of depression caused by prolonged exposure to rocket attacks. According to the authors, "These findings highlight the potential importance of community mental health efforts as protective resources in times of traumatic stress. More research on the subject is necessary to determine the extent to which support helps students cope with the difficulties."
Shahar and Henrich, both members of their university's psychology departments, have been collaborating for over eight years, publishing more than 10 joint papers on the role of stress, risk and resilience in the development of children and adolescents.
Materials provided by American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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