This preliminary study followed on from correlational studies and examined the role these programs play in helping increase child and family problem- and emotion-focused coping. Children (n = 219) were randomly assigned, based on classroom, to a condition. The “usual condition” consisted of a reading and discussion program. The “emergency management” condition consisted of the usual condition combined with emergency-management-focused teaching and increased interaction between youth and home. Factors assessed included both problem- and emotion-focused factors: knowledge of mitigation and emergency response activities, family and home hazard adjustments, hazard-related fears, emotion-focused coping ability, and perceptions of parents’ hazard-related fears. Overall, the results supported the role for hazards education programs in increasing resilience in youth and at home. In particular, large intervention produced effect sizes were seen for both child- and parent-reported hazard adjustments. Significant interactions provided additional support for the role of an emergency management focus in the problem focused areas of both child- and parent-reported hazard adjustments and increased hazards-based knowledge in the youth. These initial findings provide a continuing foundation for further research in this emerging area.
The previous research notwithstanding, there is a dearth of data-based literature in this area. Where any research does exist, it is more often in the form of children’s reactions to the occurrence of a disaster. The general findings are that children’s reactions to hazards are based on a combination of factors that include
1) direct exposure to the hazard combined with the perception of increased physical risk,
2) preexisting characteristics (e.g., demographic factors including medical factors, age, gender, ethnicity; preexisting emotional problems),
3) availability of adaptive coping ability and resources,
4) access to social and family support,
5) the occurrence of major life stressors (e.g., parental divorce, family death) following the hazard)
Taken together, based on significant trials effects for five of the six factors under study, the findings here support the role of hazards education programs in both problem- and emotion-focused domains. In addition, as indicated by significant interaction effects, the findings demonstrated the benefits of an interactive emergency management focus in producing additional, significant increases in problem-focused variables:
1) home-based hazard adjustments as reported by both children and their parents and
2) hazards-based knowledge.