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Risk Factors for Trauma Reaction

With support from parents and teachers, most students will successfully cope with a crisis event and not suffer significant emotional consequences. However, some may be at risk for more extreme reactions. The severity of these reactions will depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • Personal Circumstances—Students who have a experienced a loss or have a personal connection to those directly affected by event.
  • Trauma History—Children who have previously been exposed to a traumatic event, particularly if it is similar in nature the current crisis, have already experienced significant loss, and/or are currently coping with other critical incidents can be considered a high-risk group.
  • Excessive Media Exposure—Otherwise unaffected students may become fearful of another similar crisis occurring if they receive excessive exposure to graphic or detailed media reports.
  • Parents’ Reactions and Family Support—Altered family functioning, separation from parents, and extreme or ongoing parental distress are risk factors.
  • Emotional Reactivity—Children who tend to be anxious are those most likely to display trauma reactions.
  • Mental Health—Children who have a preexisting mental disorder, particularly an anxiety disorder, are at greater risk.
  • Coping Style—The use of blame and anger as ways of coping may create more distress for children, and the primary use of avoidance coping strategies can predict negative mental health outcomes.