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By Vicky L. Culpepper

Hurricane Katrina was one of the most terrible disasters occurred during the last decade. In spite of great looses and devastating effect, this national tragedy unveiled many internal problems existing in the American society. The hurricane revealed how deeply the American nation is divided and showed a great gap between rich and poor “leaving many of America’s worst off feeling marginalized and alienated” (Naison, 2005). Economists and sociologists argue that there are different causes that divide American nation financially and socially. Some of them suppose that it was caused by hurricane and disaster while others state that it is natural and unavoidable byproduct of the American economy. Taking into account the recent economic tendencies and social situation in the country, it is possible to say that a gap between poor and rich people is an unavoidable product that was “heated” by natural disaster. Although, at present, there are little “hard data” on the efficacy or effectiveness of various efforts to help child disaster victims, the current literature suggests several important directions to pursue. In the immediate aftermath, efforts to reassure children, provide information, and “normalize” their reactions may be helpful (Millington 2005).

The Sociological and Psychological effect of Hurricane KatrinaThe main social problems caused by Hurricane Katrina are poverty and unemployment. The social problem of poverty is that individuals have no means, they cannot buy food, pay for health care and shelter. The main groups affected by poverty were blacks and Latino who had a very low income in contrast to other social groups. Poverty caused by Hurricane Katrina involves three different areas of inequality: income inequalities; inadequacies in consumption and living under poverty line. Stressing the need to meet basic needs as the primary driving force towards development, sometimes imaginatively termed the ‘basic needs approach’, emphasizes that health and food are motors for productivity and that the basic needs of all sectors must be met. Following Michael Millington: “Katrina did not cause our problems, but exposed them. Katrina ripped the roof off of New Orleans and showed us the consequences of moral, political, and economic poverty played out over decades of abuse” (2005, p. 3). Historically, this region had been affected by low wages and poor medical services for minority groups which resulted in lack of healthcare and food for most of these families.  Also, hurricane Katrina ruined traditional patterns of supply and demand and employment. For this reason, poverty was detrimental to society because it misbalanced supply and demand, it worsened the distribution of resources and created social tension. From the beginning of the XX century, the gap between rich and poor has been drastic.  At its most basic level this impact affects the most fundamental of social fac­tors, the level of population income.

In several years after the strategy, it is possible to say that economic and social inequality results in high crime rates and social disobedience. For an individual, poverty causes anxiety, desperation and inability to socialize. Many poor try to forget about their problems taking drugs or alcohol.  The main implications for a family unit include limited employment opportunities, lack of food and medical services. Unemployment in an economy represents a significant waste of resources which could be used to produce goods and services. Creation of work places allows the government to employ hundreds of poor people around the country and gives poor an opportunity to earn for living. Also, people should have a chance to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth in order to develop their business. So, specific taxes and charges should be established for poor people engaged in small enterprises. Success in the workforce may make people more independent. This will happen because new places to work will become available.  Long-term antipoverty policies should be supported by educational opportunities for poor youth. Educational reforms and equal education opportunities is an adequate solution to this problem. These policies should be seen as investments in people reducing skill shortages and improving cultural level of poor. Following Patterson (2005): ” People who are poor, not well-educated, less literate, or who hold low-status jobs appear more likely to suffer distress in the wake of disaster. Ethnic minorities are particularly vulnerable. And adults ages 40 to 60 — with greater stress and burden than those older or younger — may be especially at risk for psychological problems”. The hurricane meant a sudden catastrophic population fall as new conditions were introduced. Development, suggesting as it does social aspects such as increasing welfare pro­vision and decreased inequality, should be expected to have a particular and positive impact on groups such as children, the aged and indigenous peoples” (Naison, 2005).

Another dimension of this problem is psychological impact of hurricane on the population and PTSD (posttraumatic stress). Psychological trauma casued by the husrricane requires the therapist’s immersion into the phenomenal reality and ego-space of the person suffering from PTSD. Empathic attunement is the capacity to resonate efficiently and accurately to another’s state of being; to match self-other understanding; to have knowledge of the internal psychological ego-states of another who has suffered a trauma; and to understand the unique internal working model/schema of their trauma experience. Empathic capacity is the aptitude for empathic attunement, and varies greatly among therapists working with PTSD patients. The patient’s ego-state or ego-spatial configuration includes the organization of experience into memory which governs attempts at adaptation to self, others and the world. It represents the fluctuating dimensions of self-reference which include cognitive functions, affect regulation, ego-identity and a sense of well-being. Measures include public meetings (anniversaries) and drug treatment methods. Empathy is the psychological capacity to identify and understand another person’s psychological state of being.  Critics underline that anniversaries and public meetings are effective tools which helped to eliminate devastation effects of hurricane Katrina. Empathic attunement allows access to the passageway and portals of the ego’s “pyramid. Post-traumatic therapy is an active process, terms such as flow, wave, signal, energy, transmission and information gathering may be used to characterize the nature of the transmitting unconscious of the patient. These defining concepts illustrate the features of a multichanneled process of verbal and nonverbal information transmission which vary in their intensity, frequency, amplitude and modulation in each channel of information transmission (Katrina’s Psychological Health Effects Will Be Long-Term, 2005).

Critics underline that “serious emotional disturbance” is not a specific diagnosis, it does place a strong emphasis on functional impairment, a concept that until recently has not received extensive attention. It was found that a sense of isolation, the civil disturbances and violence were the main consequences of the hurricane.  This is particularly the case with the most common groups of disorders affecting children and adolescents: anxiety and depressive disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders, oppositional defiant and conduct disorders, and substance abuse. Although the field is still a long way from a full understanding of the developmental, diagnostic, assessment, and treatment implications of this phenomenon, it is clear that link between disorders occurs much more frequently than could be accounted for by the rate of occurrence of the individual disorders in the general population. Researchers state that “The effects of witnessing and/or being a victim of Hurricane Katrina will vary for children depending on their age, how they experienced the event, their ability to understand what is going on around them, and whether they were or are currently separated from parents or other primary care providers” (The Psychological Effects of Hurricane Katrina, 2007). In conducting exposure-based treatments, it is essential that the professional understands the child’s “perception of the event, subjective meaning, level of exposure, and attributions of cause”, and does not “cut off” the reprocessing until the child’s arousal level has been returned to normal. Other associated treatment strategies (e.g., grief management, anger management) also may be appropriate depending on the nature of the trauma (e.g., involving death or loss of loved ones) and the types of secondary or concurrent difficulties that are present (e.g., anxiety, depression, anger, behavior problems). These measures were important because the main stress symptoms are: “axiety, depression, insomnia, irritability, impairment in concentration, loss of productivity, feelings of sadness and gloom, and the tendency to link the hurricane and floods to other traumatic events in their life” (Psychological Trauma Associated with Hurricane Katrina, 2007).

Aside from these few studies conducted with children or adolescents following disasters, there has been considerable discussion regarding how to treat youth with PTSD that results from other types of trauma (e.g., rape, sexual abuse, motor vehicle accidents.). Researchers emphasize that what we know about the treatment of PTSD in children is drawn primarily from single-case research designs. On the positive side, such studies typically involve real clients who experienced tremendous trauma and who were treated in the natural environment with tailor-made treatment protocols that featured flooding therapies. Nevertheless, there is a clear need for more large-scale controlled outcome studies of the efficacy and effectiveness of exposure-based (and other) treatments (The Psychological Aftermath, 2005).  This is extremely important because “people who take in evacuees will experience stress from the added members to their household, potentially for months to come. New research also points to vicarious stress among people with no tangible connection to a tragedy, who experience the emotional nature of the news coverage and knowledge that others are suffering, Kerber says” (Katrina’s Psychological Health Effects Will Be Long-Term, 2005).

In sum, the development of effective outreach and service delivery approaches represents another part of the challenge facing psychologists interested in working with children, particularly because there has been a sizeable growth in the number of poor children.

Works Cited Page

1.      Millington, M. Disability, Poverty and Hurricane Katrina. The Journal of Rehabilitation, Vol. 71, 2005, pp. 3-4.

2.      Naison, M. D. “Black Poverty’s Human Face”. Business Week, September 19, 2005. http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_38/b3951151.htm

3.      Psychological Trauma Associated with Hurricane Katrina Discussed by Psychologist and Media Commentator Robert R. Butterworth, Ph.D. Business Wire. 2006. http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EIN/is_2005_August_27/ai_n14933980

4.      The Psychological Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: An Expert Interview With Edna B. Foa. 2005. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/513039

5.      Patterson, K. Psychological Triage. N.d. http://www.nursingspectrum.com/Katrina/PsychTriage.cfm

6.      The Psychological Effects of Hurricane Katrina for Child and Adolescent Survivors. 2007.


  1. Crean, T. Two Americas. A Review of the New York Times Series “Class Matters” Available at: http://www.socialistalternative.org/justice46/2.html
  2. Naison, M. D. “Black Poverty’s Human Face”. Business Week, September 19, 2005. Available at: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_38/b3951151.htm

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