Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

A case study of children’s lived experience and meaning of a natural disaster

Tami Maes Fragedakis, PhD, Carmen Vincent Russoniello, PhD, Sharon Knight, PhD, Susan McGhee, PhD, Richard Williams, EdD


The purpose of this study was to document how children described their experiences of an unanticipated natural disaster in the form of a flood which followed a hurricane, focusing on strategies that helped them cope with the event. Four participants engaged in a qualitative study, which was conducted 6 years after the disaster. A qualitative analysis of the data was conducted. The overarching theme that emerged from the analysis was coping with the experience during the following time frames: (a) during the disaster, (b) immediately after the disaster, and (c) continued long-term effects post-disaster. Findings provide insight into children’s post-disaster experiences and clinical implications for recreational therapy.


post-traumatic stress disorder, recreational therapy, natural disaster

Full Text:



Lazarus RS, Folkman S: Stress, Appraisal, and Coping. New York: Springer, 1984.

Shannon MP, Lonigan CJ, Finch AJ, et al.: Children exposed to disaster: Epidemiology of post-traumatic symptoms and symptom profiles. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatr. 1994; 33(1): 80-93.

Vernberg E, Vogel J: Interventions with children after a natural disaster. J Clin Child Psychol. 1993; 22(4): 485-498.

National Weather Service Wilmington, NC: Break the Grip of the Rip [Media Event]. Wrightsville Beach, NC: National Weather Service, 2004. Available at Accessed September 27, 2018.

Ting M, Camargo SJ, Li C, et al.: Natural and forced north Atlantic hurricane potential intensity change in CMIP5 models. Am Meteorol Soc. 2015; 25: 3926-2942.

Goldenberg S, Landsea CW, Mestas-Nunez AM, et al.: The recent increase in Atlantic hurricane activity: Causes and implications. Sci Mag. 2001; 293: 474-479.

Arnell NW, Gosling SN: The impacts of climate change on river flood risk at a global scale. Clim Change. 2016; 134: 387-401.

David SD, Baish S, Morrow BH: Uncovering the hidden costs of coastal hazards. Environment. 1999; 41: 10-19.

Shelby JS, Tredinnick MG: Crisis intervention with survivors of natural disaster: Lessons from Hurricane Andrew. J Counsel Dev. 1995; 73: 491-506.

La Greca AM, Silverman WK, Wasserstein SB: Children’s predisaster functioning as a predictor of posttraumatic stress following Hurricane Andrew. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1998; 66: 883-892.

Moore S, Daniel M, Linnan L, et al.: After Hurricane Floyd passed: Investigating the social determinants of disaster preparedness and recovery. Fam Commun Health. 2004; 27(3): 204-217.

Garcia D, Siddiqui A: Adolescents’ affective temperaments: Life satisfaction, interpretation, and memory of events. J Posit Psychol. 2009; 4(2): 155-167.

Nurcombe B: The child as a witness: Competency and credibility. J Am Acad Child Psychiatr. 1986; 25(4): 473-480.

Terr L: What happens to early memories of trauma? A study of twenty children under age five at the time of documented traumatic events. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatr. 1988; 27(1): 96-104.

Jones L: Pattillo elementary principal relates his school’s story. The Daily Southerner. November 12, 1999: 6.

Miles MB, Huberman AM: Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1994.

Carter MJ, Van Andel GE, Robb GM: Therapeutic Recreation: A Practical Approach. 3rd ed. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, Inc, 2003.

Russoniello CV: Recovering from hurricanes and flooding over time: Lessons learned from a child cohort [Abstract]. Proc Soc Behav Med U S A. 2006; 27: S187.



  • There are currently no refbacks.