Last Spring, RWJF alums Katie McLaughlin and Margaret Sheridan were in the middle of a study on trauma that, like so many of its kind, relied upon artificial situations created in a lab. But in the middle of this study, a real-life trauma occurred: the marathon bombing. As McLaughlin told New England Public Radio, this provided a unique opportunity to look at how children and adolescents who had experienced previous trauma and stress responded to a new trauma. The study ultimately found that early exposure to violence makes someone more, not less, sensitized to violence later on. McLaughlin and Sheridan also made another important discovery: the more that a young person watched coverage of the bombing and subsequent manhunt, the more likely he or she was to feel unsafe or under threat, and to develop mental health problems afterwards.
Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies