The school community contributes to how children cope effectively with a disaster

Maureen Mooney, Ruth Tarrant, Douglas Paton, David Johnston, Sarb Johal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The Canterbury, New Zealand, earthquake disaster of 2010–2011 had a major impact on children. The present study aims to increase understanding of schools’ contributions to children’s recovery by examining how this core context fosters children’s effective coping in a disaster. The study uses a phenomenological approach to investigate the disaster experience from the children’s (n = 32) own viewpoint and from that of their parents (31), teachers (6), and school principals (5). The schools in the study proved a stable, supportive environment for children providing routine, consistency, and a sense of safety and security. Teachers were a trusted source of support for children, and they coached children to cope. Teachers and schools also continually kept channels open between children and their families, including maintaining contact with parents during aftershocks to reassure them their children were safe. Peer contact was also important for children to share their experiences and gain support from one another. Principals considered welfare and put in place support mechanisms for staff and the children. Understanding how a school context and the relationships within that context promote effective coping in children facing a disaster is critical for developing more effective psychosocial support, and intervention strategies for children. In view of the school’s key role, support to schools and teachers, including further training for education professionals, is needed throughout a disaster cycle if children’s positive adaptation and coping is to be fostered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-47
Number of pages24
JournalPastoral Care in Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


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