Parents' perceptions of their roles and behaviors after the 9/11 terrorist attack

Claire O'Connor, Pace University


The psychological aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the United States on 9/11 represents a significant community mental health problem. This study analyzed parents' perceptions of their caregiving role in relation to 9/11 using the parent role development theory (PDT), which organizes parenting roles into six categories (bonding, discipline, education, general protection and welfare, responsivity, and sensitivity). The present study analyzed how 96 parents employed at two New York City area universities rated the importance and frequency of those six roles (a) before; (b) immediately after; and (c) approximately nine months after 9/11. Data from portions of two instruments---the Parent Role Questionnaire (PRQ) and the Parent Behavior Frequency Questionnaire (PBFQ)---were analyzed using a series of one-way ANOVA repeated measures to compare each parenting attribute across the three time periods. Post hoc testing of significant findings used Bonferoni corrected comparisons. Further, participant responses were analyzed by demographic variables to identify how these attributes mediated reported changes in the parent role, using a series two-way mixed ANOVA and post hoc Scheffé comparisons. Overall, parents rated aspects of parenting as becoming significantly more important immediately after 9/11, though the perceived importance of these characteristics mostly returned to pre-9/11 levels approximately nine months after 9/11. The one exception was sensitivity to children's needs, which remained at higher levels. Parents also reported performing parenting behaviors more frequently immediately after 9/11; again, for the most part, the frequency returned to pre-9/11 levels within approximately nine months. Parenting discipline and education frequencies did not change over time. Parent age was a moderating variable; parents aged 50-59 reported fewer changes in their parent role than younger parents. Limitations of the study include the retrospective nature of the research design and possible social desirability effects influencing the reporting of parental perceptions. Implications of these results for school psychology and clinical child psychology are discussed. Understanding parents' perspectives of their role subsequent to trauma is helpful for psychologists in consulting with parents about preventative and primary interventions.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Psychotherapy|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

O'Connor, Claire, "Parents' perceptions of their roles and behaviors after the 9/11 terrorist attack" (2007). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3251232.



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