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Children and natural disasters : an investigation of cognitions, knowledge and emotions in Wellington year 5 students : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Sciences in Psychology at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
The aim of the present study was to examine children’s cognitions (thoughts,
expectations, beliefs and values), knowledge (education and experience), and
emotions (feelings) regarding natural disasters. The sample consisted of 30 Year
5 students (9-10 years) from four primary schools in the Wellington Region.
Schools were ethnically, socioeconomically and geographically diverse. Students
participated in a 60 minute focus group, consisting of three to five students in
each group. Focus groups used open ended questions to facilitate conversation,
guided by the interviewer. Thematic analysis was used to explore the data and
identify key themes, based on guidelines suggested by Braun and Clarke (2003).
The analysis identified that many students believe an earthquake to be the most
likely disaster to occur in Wellington, and many of the students discussed having
serious fears about this. Students also identified a number of positive coping
methods for use when experiencing fears about disasters, suggesting some
ability to protect themselves from negative emotions. Students displayed pride
in preparation and were able to clearly identify a number of positive preparatory
behaviours, as well as behaviours during and after a disaster. Students were
held a great deal of general knowledge about disasters, such as different types,
as well as the causes of some disasters, and had knowledge of a large number of
current events, which they had largely viewed on television and discussed in
classes. Participants discussed having been involved in emergency management
classes and drills within their schools, and had an interest in improving these
classes to make themselves feel better prepared for a disaster. Overall, students
had considerable interest in disasters, which provides an opportunity to foster
preparedness in young New Zealanders.