The social and psychological effects of the Ruapehu eruptions within the Ohakune community : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University
It is commonly accepted that exposure to disaster will cause distress and anxiety within affected communities. This distress is due to both the occurrenec of disaster and the secondary stressors that result from this event. Previous research has noted the beneficial effects of certain individual characteristics in the healthy recovery of community members following exposure to disaster. These characteristics are sense of community, self-efficacy, problem-focused coping, and access to adequate social support. This study examined the importance of these characteristics within a rural New Zealand community exposed to a series of volcanic eruptions. A cross sectional survey collected data at two different periods; once in the post-disaster period, and again when the community had returned to levels of non-disaster functioning. The survey measured levels of the characteristics mentioned above and psychological symptomatology. Demographic information was also collected. A number of statistical procedures were run and the results found that age, coping style and self-efficacy were significant predictors of symptomatology during the post-disaster phase. These were mediated by the quality of social support available to the respondents. However, in the non-disaster period, none of the variables included in this study were accurate predictors of psychological outcome. Future studies need to clarify these results within other rural New Zealand communities exposed to disaster. From this research, practical community response programmes can be installed within communities that will aid in their healthy and effective recovery following exposure to disaster.