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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00496

Long-term impact of parental PTSD symptoms on mental health of their offspring after the Great East Japan Earthquake

 Yukiko Honda1, 2, 3, 4,  Takeo Fujiwara5*, Junko Yagi6, Hiroaki Homma7, Hirobumi Mashiko8, Keizo Nagao9, Makiko Okuyama4, Masako Ono-Kihara1 and Masahiro Kihara1
  • 1School of Public Health, Kyoto University, Japan
  • 2Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Nagasaki University, Japan
  • 3Faculty of Advanced Science and Technology, Kumamoto University, Japan
  • 4National Center for Child Health and Development (NCCHD), Japan
  • 5Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Japan
  • 6Iwate Medical University, Japan
  • 7Asaka Hospital, Japan
  • 8Fukushima Rehabilitation Center for Children, Fukushima, Japan, Japan
  • 9Nagao Mental Clinic, Mie, Japan, Japan

Longitudinal studies of the long-term psychological impact of the Great East Japan Earthquake (GEJE) on parents and their children have been limited. The current study aimed to monitor parents’ post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and behavioral problems among their children over time, and to analyze their long-term associations, among the survivors of the GEJE. We used data from the Great East Japan Earthquake Follow-up for Children study, which recruited 4–6-year-old children and those children’s parents immediately after the GEJE in March 2011, with ongoing follow-up. Children’s total, internalizing, and externalizing behavioral problems were assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), and parental PTSD was assessed using the Impact of Event Scale-R (IES-R), in 2012 (baseline) and 2014 (follow-up). Parental PTSD symptoms and children’s behavioral problems declined slightly over time, and both showed a significant correlation between the surveys (r = 0.55–0.77, P < 0.001). The association between parental PTSD symptoms and children’s behavioral problems was investigated using multivariate logistic regression analysis adjusting for baseline children’s behavioral problems and other potential confounders. Cross-sectionally, while no significant association was detected in 2012, all types of children’s behavioral problems exhibited significant positive associations with parental PTSD symptoms in multiple logistic regression analysis (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 3.03–5.34) but significant negative associations with the number of siblings (two or more) (AOR = 0.14–0.22) in 2014. Maternal educational attainment level (higher than high school education) also showed a significant negative association with children’s total and externalizing behavioral problems (AOR = 0.30 and 0.13, respectively) in 2014. Longitudinally, parental PTSD symptoms in 2012 showed a significant association with children’s internalizing behavioral problems in 2014 after adjusting for children’s behavioral problems in 2012 and parental PTSD symptoms in 2014 (AOR = 4.62). These results suggest that effect of the GEJE on parental PTSD symptoms and children’s behavioral problems was long-term, lasting for at least 3 years. These possibilities should be carefully considered in mental health support for parents and their offspring in areas affected by the GEJE.

Keywords: disaster, behavior problems, Mental Health, Post-traumatic stress disorder, long-term impact

Received: 01 Oct 2018; Accepted: 24 Jun 2019.

Edited by:

Sunghyon Kyeong, College of Medicine, Yonsei University, South Korea

Reviewed by:

Jana Chihai, Nicolae Testemiţanu State University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Moldova
Arash Javanbakht, Wayne State University, United States  

Copyright: © 2019 Honda, Fujiwara, Yagi, Homma, Mashiko, Nagao, Okuyama, Ono-Kihara and Kihara. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Takeo Fujiwara, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Bunkyō, Japan,