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UC Investigating How First Year School Entrants Are Settling

UC Investigating How First Year School Entrants Are Settling Into Primary School Post-Earthquake

March 19, 2013

A University of Canterbury (UC) researcher is investigating how first year school entrants are settling into primary school in post-earthquake Christchurch.

Annabel Carter’s investigation into the studies of children post-earthquakes indicates that up to 78 percent of children may experience some psychological symptoms for many years following even a single traumatic event.

A wide range of issues has been identified in the research including loss of interest in playing, becoming clingy, increasing irritability, problems with concentration and sleep problems.

Carter has researched studies of children post-earthquakes in Northridge California (1994), Kobe Japan (1995), Athens (1999), Wenchuan China (2008) and other natural disasters.

This study will look at the children’s’ understanding of helping, caring and learning.

``While studies have concentrated on the problems of children, the most important thing is their development of the qualities associated with helping, caring and learning that will help them in the future.

``I plan to interview children in their first year of school, to learn about their ideas about helping, caring and learning. We also have a larger study involving several of our health sciences researchers who have formed a partnership with schools and teachers.

``The younger the age of the child at the time of the earthquake, the more likely they might be to experience concerning symptoms, which is why our research is focusing on children who were pre-school age in September 2010 through to December 2012,’’ Carter said.

The study plans to follow children from the first day of school through to the end of year three. The larger study also hopes to record the many individual and school-wide activities that teachers and principals have put in place since the earthquakes to promote resilience.

``Resilience is also important to families and communities. Our research team is also developing a process in which we will talk to parents and whanau to discover how they encourage and support them with coping and resilience.

``Many children in New Zealand have experienced natural disasters or other trauma but what differs for the children of Christchurch however, is the ongoing, prolonged and unanticipated nature of the earthquakes, Carter said.

``We hope information gathered from the larger study will help our partner schools identify the most effective strategies that they and their families are using, and the information and strategies will be shared with other schools, teachers and parents,’’ Associate Professor Kathleen Liberty said.

Her research is being supervised by Professor Liberty and Dr Sonja Macfarlane.

ENDS

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