Defining a Moment in History: Parent Communication with Adolescents About September 11, 2001

Document Type



Behavioral and Organizational Sciences (CGU)

Publication Date



Child Psychology | Clinical Psychology | Health Psychology | Psychology | School Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Parents play an important role in helping their children process and interpret significant sociohistorical events. However, little is known about how parents frame these experiences or the specific social, cultural, and civic messages they may communicate about the event. In this study, we examined self-reported communication of parents from six communities in the United States with their adolescents about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Parents’ (N = 972) open-ended responses about September 11th were analyzed to assess whether communication with their adolescents occurred and for thematic content. Results revealed marked variability in parents’ communication and suggest that many parents used September 11th as an opportunity to impart sociocultural, emotional, and civic messages. Identifying the diversity in parents’ responses aligns with the tenets of Terror Management Theory and provides insights into the roles of parents in translating pivotal historical moments. Collectively, these findings yield important implications for civic socialization.

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© 2011 Springer-Verlag

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