ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2015, Vol. 23 ›› Issue (2): 168-174.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2015.00168

• Conceptual Framework • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Development of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the Cognitive Neural Mechanism of PTSD among Orphans after Major Disaster

ZHANG Xingli1; LI Xiaoyan1,3; LIU Mingxin1; SHI Jiannong1,2,3; LIU Zhengkui1   

  1. (1 Key Laboratory of Behavioral Science, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China) (2 University of Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing 100049, China) (3Department of Learning and Philosophy, Aalborg University, Denmark)
  • Received:2013-08-28 Online:2015-02-14 Published:2015-02-14
  • Contact: SHI Jiannong, E-mail:; LIU Zhengkui, E-mail:


Persistent separation from parents immediately after a natural disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane), along with the loss of the child’s home, pets, toys, and friends predicts post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children. Orphans reported significantly more PTSD symptoms than the disaster and non-trauma control groups. Research on orphans shows convincingly that psychological trauma has an enormously damaging effect on their development, their mental and physical health, as well as cognition and behavior. Intervention, in the form of administrative systems and psychological support, would be enormously valuable, both to the orphans and to society. However, the effectiveness and efficiency of intervention can be greatly improved with a better understanding of both PTSD's development, and its cognitive neural mechanisms. To this end, our project consists of 3 major goals: (1) use methods taken from epidemiology to characterize the trajectory of PTSD in post-disaster orphans; (2) investigate changes in cognitive development and immunological function in post disaster orphans in a cross sectional study, revealing the mental and behavior mechanism of PTSD; (3) examine the cognitive neural mechanism of the PTSD by using eye tracking and event-related potentials technologies. Using the results of this project, we can provide expert insight into psychological support for orphans, suggesting effective administrative systems and models of psychological support for orphans in emergency settings.

Key words: orphans, post-traumatic stress disorders, development, cognitive, psychological support