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ADOLESCENT STRESS RESPONSES TO A SINGLE ACUTE STRESS AND TO CONTINUOUS EXTERNAL STRESS: TERRORIST ATTACKS

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The present study relates to adolescent response to a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. We studied two groups of Israeli Jewish adolescents who evidenced similar proportions of both emotional and geographical proximity to the event: (a) local Tel Aviv youth, for whom the attack constituted a single, isolated, acute stress, and (b) youth from a border settlement, for whom this attack constituted one in a continuous series of exposures to terrorist incidents (shootings, air-raid attacks). A significant difference emerged between the two groups regarding their increase in fears from the past to the present. As expected, following the terrorist attack, the acute stress group reported a higher increase in fears than the continuous stress group. As for proximity to the event, adolescents who personally knew a victim or were physically close to the terrorist attack (whether they belonged to the acute or the continuous group) reported more fears and symptoms than those who did not know a victim personally or were physically distant. Proximity did not affect the continuous stress group, whereas it did affect the acute stress group. As expected, significant differences emerged between the groups in trait anxiety, symptoms, and increases in fear. Participants with higher trait anxiety reported a higher level of state anxiety, more symptoms, and a higher increase in fears. Contrary to expectations, analyses revealed no significant gender differences. The outcomes support previous research suggesting that prolonged exposure results in habituation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Bob Shapell School of Social Work, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel

Publication date: October 1, 2003

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