Natural disasters have a potential highly traumatic impact on psychological functioning. This is notably true for children, whose vulnerability depends on their level of cognitive and emotional development. Before formal schooling, children possess all the basic abilities to represent the phenomena of the world, including natural disasters. However, scarce attention has been paid to children’s representation of earthquakes, notwithstanding its relevance for risk awareness and for the efficacy of prevention programs. We examined children’s representation of earthquakes using different methodologies. One hundred and twenty-eight second- and fourth-graders completed a written definition task and an online recognition task, analyzed through the Rasch model. Findings from both tasks indicated that, in children’s representation, natural elements such as geological ones were the most salient, followed by man-made elements, and then by person-related elements. Older children revealed a more complex representation of earthquakes, and this was detected through the online recognition task. The results are discussed taking into account their theoretical and applied relevance. Beyond advancing knowledge of the development of the representation of earthquakes, they also inform on strengths and limitations of different methodologies. Both aspects are key resources to develop prevention programs for fostering preparedness to natural disasters and emotional prevention.
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