Date of Award

Fall 5-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Counselor Education


Educational Leadership, Counseling, and Foundations

Major Professor

Dr. Roxane Dufrene

Second Advisor

Dr. Barbara Herlihy

Third Advisor

Dr. Zarus Watson



The purpose of this study was to explore the impact of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill on students of two coastal Louisiana secondary schools. Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological systems theory was used as a framework to understand how exposure, gender, socioeconomic status, and resilience interact to influence the impact of the spill on students. Cross-sectional questionnaires were administered to 155 high school students in May 2012 and 225 middle school students in January 2013 out of 1247 possible for a return rate of about 30%.

Results showed that exposure groups differed significantly on students’ Impact of Event Scale (IES; Horowitz, Wilner, & Alvarez, 1979) scores. Students with high exposure to the oil spill had significantly higher IES scores than those with no exposure and low exposure. Logistic regression results indicated that exposure was a significant predictor of higher IES scores and as exposure increased by 1, students were 1.46 times more likely to experience higher impact. Males were found to have significantly higher IES scores than females, with a low effect size. Students did not differ significantly across resilience levels. In the entire sample, lower-SES students did not score significantly different on IES scores than higher-SES students. However, in the high school significant differences were found between SES groups and SES was a significant predictor of higher IES scores. Implications are provided for counselor educators interested in disaster mental health. Conclusions include suggestions for counselors servicing areas affected by the oil spill and how individual and environmental characteristics of students can influence risk factors.

Keywords: Disaster mental health, crisis intervention counseling, ecological systems theory, BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, secondary school students, resilience, risk factors


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