Reactions of Oklahoma City bombing survivors to media coverage of the September 11, 2001, attacks

Betty Pfefferbaum, Pascal Nitiéma, Rose L. Pfefferbaum, J. Brian Houston, Phebe Tucker, Haekyung Jeon-Slaughter, Carol S North

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective This study explored the effects of media coverage of a terrorist incident in individuals remote from the location of a major attack who had directly experienced a prior terrorist incident. Method Directly-exposed survivors of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, initially studied six months after the incident, and indirectly-affected Oklahoma City community residents were assessed two to seven months after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Survivors were assessed for a diagnosis of bombing-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at index and follow up, and emotional reactions and September 11 media behavior were assessed in all participants. Results Among the three investigated forms of media (television, radio, and newspaper), only television viewing was associated with 9/11-related posttraumatic stress reactions. Exposure to the Oklahoma City bombing was associated with greater arousal in relation to the September 11 attacks, and among survivors, having developed bombing-related PTSD was associated with higher scores on all three September 11 posttraumatic stress response clusters (intrusion, avoidance, and arousal). Although time spent watching television coverage of the September 11 attacks and fear-related discontinuation of media contact were not associated with Oklahoma City bombing exposure, discontinuing September 11 media contact due to fear was associated with avoidance/numbing in the full sample and in the analysis restricted to the bombing survivors. Conclusion Surviving a prior terrorist incident and developing PTSD in relation to that incident may predispose individuals to adverse reactions to media coverage of a future terrorist attack.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-78
Number of pages9
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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