Emotional reactions in parents of the youth who experienced the Utøya shooting on 22 July 2011; results from a cohort study

The objective of this study was to provide knowledge about the emotional reactions in parents whose offspring experienced a mass shooting on Utøya island in Norway in 2011.


Objective and setting: The research questions included whether parents’ reactions were influenced by their offspring’s symptom level, age, living situation and parental gender.

Design: The study was designed as an open cohort study. The data were collected at two time points; 4–5 months and 14–15 months after the shooting.

Participants: The participants were 531 parents of youth exposed to the Utøya island attack.

Outcome measures: The Parental Emotional Reaction Questionnaire measured parents’ reactions, and University of California, Los Angeles Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Reaction Index measured youths' post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Results: Parental emotional reactions were positively related to post-traumatic stress reactions in offspring at wave 1: Est.=0.20, 95% CI 0.10 to 0.30, p<0.001, over time (wave 1and wave 2 nested within individuals): Est.=0.23, CI 0.13 to 0.32, p<0.001, and at wave 2: Est.=0.26, CI 0.12 to 0.39, p<0.001. Youths’ age was not significantly related to parental emotional reactions, neither at wave 1: Est.=0.19, CI −0.40 to 0.77, p=0.531, over time: Est.=0.26, CI −0.27 to 0.79, p=328, nor at wave 2: Est.=0.32, CI −0.41 to 1.05, p=0.389. Mothers were more emotionally upset than fathers both at wave 1: Est.=−5.66, CI −7.63 to −3.69, p<0.001, over time: Est.=−5.36, CI −7.18 to −3.55, p<0.001, and at wave 2: Est.=−5.33, CI −7.72 to −2.53, p<0.001.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that parenting after trauma should be addressed in outreach programmes and in planning of healthcare services.

BMJ Open, 2017, 7, doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2016-015345


Published Nov. 27, 2017 7:00 AM