Families Coping with Natural Disasters: Lessons from Wildfires and Tornados

Paul Miller, Nicole Roberts, Angela D. Zamora, Dana J. Weber, Mary Burleson, Elias Robles-Sotelo, Barbara J. Tinsley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Even though parents are the most significant socialization influence during childhood, there has been little study of how parents model and promote their children's adaptive coping in natural disasters. In-depth semi-structured interviews of 56 parents whose families were evacuated from their homes due to wildfires (n = 24, San Diego County, California, October 2007) or multiple deadly tornados (n = 32, Tennessee towns of Lafayette in Macon County and Gallatin in Sumner County, February 2008) were conducted within four days of each disaster. The current study assessed prior and current disaster exposure levels and parents' reports of preparedness or problem solving, emotion regulation, social support, distraction, religious, and family-level coping activities with their children in response to each disaster. By examining parents' rich and complex responses to their disaster experiences, we lay the foundation for the development of models of parental socialization of children's coping effectively during disasters. Findings offer direction for intervention policy and programs that assist parents in managing children's developing competence in response to disasters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)314-336
Number of pages23
JournalQualitative Research in Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • children
  • coping
  • family
  • natural disasters
  • socialization
  • tornados
  • wildfires

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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