The impact of drought on the emotional well-being of children and adolescents in rural and remote New South Wales

John Dean, Helen J. Stain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Context and Purpose: Between 2002 and 2006 New South Wales was in the grip of the worst drought for more than 100 years. Financial hardships have led governments to declare "Exceptional Circumstances." Little social research has investigated the impact of drought on children. For this study, children from rural and remote regions of New South Wales were asked for their interpretations of the impacts of drought on their lives. Methods: A multi-strategy approach combining qualitative and quantitative approaches was used to reveal deeper understanding of the impacts of drought. Students in Years 5 through 12 from six Central Schools in the rural southwest of New South Wales participated in focus groups and completed self-report questionnaires. Results: Quantitative self-reports indicated these students were not significantly more distressed than Australian norms. However, the themes that emerged from the students' statements indicated that the drought had been a very significant event for them. This qualitative information also indicated connections for these students to their families, schools, and communities. Conclusions: The emotional impacts of changes to family and community life appear to have been moderated by these students' positive attitudes toward their country lifestyle. These students have discussed the impact of drought on their environment, their livestock, financial resources, and their families. In the face of declining rural community networks, children should be supported through programs that maintain resilience in the face of recurring environmental stressors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356-364
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Rural Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2007
Externally publishedYes


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