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Three years post-Tsunami: long-term effects of trauma in children aged 7-15 - a culture-sensitive approach

Periodic Report Summary - POSTTSUNAMI (Three years post-Tsunami: long-term effects of trauma in children aged 7-15 - a culture-sensitive approach)

Project context and objectives

This summary covers the last year of the project that was completed at the University of Innsbruck, Department of Psychology. All data that was gained during the research period in India was disseminated and processed at the university. The ultimate goal of the POSTTSUNAMI project was the assessment and enhancement of the psychosocial well-being and resilience of children based on the research on children and mothers affected by the 2004 tsunami in Tamil Nadu, India.

Work completed
The process of the results’ dissemination is described in the following numbered sections.
1. Well-being indicators of children: a lecture on child well-being
In the lecture, the students were taught that children’s well-being was determined by universal and culture-specific indicators. A focus was put on culture; the two broad cultural concepts of collectivism and individualism were discussed. The students were trained to develop a questionnaire on subjective well-being with students from Innsbruck. This data was compared to international well-being indicators. This lecture was based on the development of indicators for children after tsunami from both mothers’ and children’s perspective.
2. Trauma and post-traumatic growth in children: a lecture
A battery of questionnaires was answered by mothers concerning their own and their children's trauma, their children's behaviour and prior trauma history, their own posttraumatic growth (PTG) and their mental health. Children were asked questions regarding their trauma and PTG. A major finding was that main predictors for children's posttraumatic stress symptoms were their prior trauma history, mother's mental health and the context in which they live. The findings regarding PTG, that positive changes occur following highly challenging life crises in children, expanded pre-existing understanding: that PTG is present in an Asian context and can be experienced even after a greater amount of time.
3. Training for resilience enhancement
Lectures on trauma interventions for children and youth facing adversity, and other interventions submitted by other authors, were introduced as well. Based on these main results, a training course called 'Resilience building among children in adverse situations' was developed. This training helps mothers to promote resilience in their children and helps children get trained in three out of five key resilience factors: empathy, social competence and problem solving.

On the basis of prevention and intervention programmes, the findings show that children gained and reactivated a lot of resources in spite of trauma. Hence, it is strongly recommended to build on children's resources whilst at the same time helping them to cope with their trauma symptoms. Given that a child's well-being depends highly on the mother's, this programme focused on both. This training will be adapted to different cultural settings within and outside of Europe after assessing the subjective well-being indicators of children in a given culture.