Marriage, Birth and Divorce After Terrorist Attack

Project: Research project

Project Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): To date, the primary focus of disaster research has been on identifying the mental health consequences for individuals following natural and technological disasters. An exclusive focus on mental health outcomes will underestimate the effect of disaster given that the consequences for many adult disaster victims unfold in the context of close relationships. The proposed study expands the disaster and historical demography literatures by examining whether a man-made disaster and unique sociocultural event--the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack--is related to family development. The first aim is to examine whether the terrorist disaster led to changes in marriage, birth, and divorce rates in New York City, Washington D.C., and the surrounding counties and states using vital statistics data to examine spatial associations between the disaster and change in pre- and post-disaster rates. Three possible patterns of change are expected that reflect family disruption, family attachment, or personal action. Where we observe change in the outcomes will suggest whether direct exposure to disaster or post-9/11 fear and threat experienced more broadly was the mechanism behind change. The second aim is to lend specificity to the analyses in three ways by examining conditions that might explain any changes in marriage, birth, and divorce rates. First, did change in one of the outcomes (e.g., an increase in marriage rates) explain either of the other two outcomes (e.g., an increase in birth rates?) Second, did increases in unemployment rates in and around the New York City and Washington D.C. areas explain any changes in the three outcomes? Third, did some other national phenomenon common to major metropolitan areas and occurring in a similar time frame account for any changes in the New York City and Washington D.C. areas? These data will be analyzed using ARIMA time series analyses and subsequent spatial dose-response analyses. The prospective design provides a baseline before the disaster against which to compare subsequent marriage, birth, and divorce rates. Vital statistics data allow us to examine objective behavioral outcomes related to social relationships and change in major family transitions that occur relatively infrequently in small samples. The broad goals are to extend theory about how family formation and dissolution are affected by this unique period event and to inform services for disaster victims.
Effective start/end date9/27/042/28/07


  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: $72,000.00
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: $64,650.00


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