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The purpose of this work was to evaluate the cognitive and socialemotional consequences in a general population of primary school children affected by the firework disaster in Enschede, the Netherlands, on May 13, 2000. The explosions caused tremendous damage in the surrounding neighborhood. Twenty-two people immediately died and 1000 were injured.

METHODS. This retrospective study assessed school performance and social-emotional behavior before and up to 3 years after the disaster. Objectively measured school test results in spelling and arithmetic/mathematics and multi-informant social-emotional behavioral assessments were compared between exposed and nonexposed primary school children. Multivariate logistic-regression was used to assess the relationship between exposure and cognitive and social emotional functioning.

RESULTS. On school performances, the children exposed to the disaster performed over a period of 3 years after the disaster as good as or better than classmates, controls, and a national reference population. Shortly after the disaster, exposed children even seemed to have better school test results than nonexposed children. Two to 3 years after the disaster, a significant effect of disaster exposure was found on social-emotional behavior. Problematic behavior was reported by teachers, parents, and the school doctor.

CONCLUSIONS. This study demonstrates a limited influence of disaster exposure on school performance in primary school children. This study also shows that teachers and youth health care practitioners especially should be aware of children starting school several years after a disaster. Although very young at the time of a disaster (1–4 years of age), they may experience disaster-related problems. (Authors)
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