The role of social support on the mental health status of adolescents exposed to traumatic events on September 11

Paula Michelle Dorinson, Fordham University


The terrorist attacks on September 11 affected thousands of school aged children, especially those who witnessed the attacks. Adolescents were especially vulnerable to major psychiatric disorders due to the complex transitions in this developmental stage. Research has found that adolescents with acute trauma exposure are at greater risk of experiencing mental health problems such as post traumatic stress, and other psychopathologies such as depression and anxiety. This study is based on a risk and resilience model to explore social support from peers as a protective factor in terms of its contribution to predicting long term mental health status based on symptoms associated with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and global psychopathology reported by adolescents directly exposed to the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City. Participants consisted of 83 adolescents with exposure to different stressors on September 11, from a large urban public high school located in close proximity to the former World Trade Center. Individual self-report assessments were collected for each participant, which created the extant database used for the present study. The two multiple regression analyses yielded statistically significant results. Social support from peers drove the two models and made the most significant contribution to predicting mental health status. The findings of this study revealed that social support did not moderate the risk associated with trauma exposure, but rather was related to positive mental health status in all adolescents regardless of their level of risk. It can be deduced that social support functions as an asset to adolescents (both at high and low risk) and is associated with healthy psychological functioning over time.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Dorinson, Paula Michelle, "The role of social support on the mental health status of adolescents exposed to traumatic events on September 11" (2011). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3465663.