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One in 9 children near marathon bombing likely had PTSD symptoms

Marathon bombings and the effects on children

A new survey of 460 parents in the Boston area conducted by Boston University researchers suggests that 11 percent of children who attended the Marathon on the day of the 2013 bombings developed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s similar to findings among New York schoolchildren six months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The survey results were published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. Children ages 4 to 19 who attended the Marathon were six times more likely to develop PTSD compared with those who did not attend. The survey also found that children watched an average of 1.5 hours of television coverage on the attack day and 21 percent watched more than three hours. The three hours of viewing was also linked to PTSD symptoms. Only about a third of parents tried to restrict children’s exposure to coverage of the attack and manhunt.

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Symptoms of PTSD include persistent nightmares, anxiety, fear of crowded places, and having flashbacks of the event.

“Although children, on average, showed normative functioning,” wrote the study researchers, “marathon attendance and many specific attack-related and manhunt-related exposures were associated with greater” mental health problems.

An April survey of parents who lived in areas under lockdown a few days after the bombing reached similar conclusions.

Deborah Kotz can be reached at dkotz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @debkotz2.
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