Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Grief reactions subside in most children and teens whose parent dies suddenly, but may persist or increase in some cases

Date:
September 7, 2011
Source:
JAMA and Archives Journals
Summary:
When a parent dies suddenly, most children and teens experience grief that fades over time, but some have increased or prolonged grief reactions that may increase the risk of depression and inability to function normally, according to a new report.

When a parent dies suddenly, most children and teens experience grief that fades over time, but some have increased or prolonged grief reactions that may increase the risk of depression and inability to function normally, according to a report in the September issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to background information in the article, 4 percent of children and adolescents in Western countries experience a parental death, including 5 percent of U.S. individuals under 18 years old. The authors report that a parent's death can be one of the most stressful life events for a young person. While research has enhanced the understanding of the nature and course of adult grief, the authors write, "Relatively little is known about the course of grief in children and adolescents." (The authors define "grief" as "the subjective experience of loss," and "bereavement" as referring to "status with respect to loss, regardless of subjective experience.") The investigators examined the grief reactions of children and adolescents after a parent's sudden death to determine how those reactions affected bereaved participants' mental well-being and ability to function.

Nadine M. Melhem, Ph.D., from the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and colleagues studied children, adolescents and families experiencing a parental death from July 2002 to January 2007. The researchers used coroners' reports and a newspaper advertisement to recruit participants ages 7 through 18 years whose parent died by suicide, unintentional injury or sudden natural causes. A modified version of the adult Inventory of Complicated Grief was used to assess the state of grief in child and adolescent participants; the original version of this instrument was completed by surviving parents. Other assessment tools were used to determine whether children and adolescents experienced other psychiatric disorders and functional impairment and to evaluate the severity of their grief symptoms. Assessments occurred at baseline, a mean (average) of 8.5 months after the parent died; approximately one year later; and approximately two years after the parental death. Of the 182 initial child and adolescent participants, 165 and 141 completed the one- and two-year follow-ups, respectively.

For most participants (58.8 percent), grief scores decreased significantly between nine and 21 months after the parent's death and then stayed low. In a second group (30.8 percent), grief reactions increased at about nine months but then steadily declined through the 33rd month after the parent died. Grief scores were high at the ninth month and remained high through the 33rd month for 10.4 percent of participants.

Parental death due to unintentional injury and higher self-reported depression at nine months were associated with higher grief scores. The 10.4 percent of participants with high grief scores that did not decline much were more likely to have functional impairment at nine months post-parental death, a previous history of depression and new-onset posttraumatic stress disorder. Children and adolescents were more likely to experience depression during follow-up if their surviving parent had complicated or prolonged grief, if they felt others were accountable for the death or if they experienced other life events since the death.

The authors summarize that prolonged grief appears to contribute to functional impairment and psychiatric problems in children and adolescents after the sudden death of a parent. They suggest that interventions which focus on prolonged grief be developed for these young people, as well as for those with increased grief reactions at nine months after the parent's death. Lastly, the authors point out that the surviving parent's grief reaction was associated with the risk that children and teens with complicated grief would develop depression. "These findings have important clinical implications regarding intervention and prevention efforts," they write. "It is imperative to assess the surviving parent and to intervene, when appropriate, to improve the outcomes for parentally bereaved children and adolescents."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by JAMA and Archives Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. N. M. Melhem, G. Porta, W. Shamseddeen, M. Walker Payne, D. A. Brent. Grief in Children and Adolescents Bereaved by Sudden Parental Death. Archives of General Psychiatry, 2011; 68 (9): 911 DOI: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.101

Cite This Page:

JAMA and Archives Journals. "Grief reactions subside in most children and teens whose parent dies suddenly, but may persist or increase in some cases." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110906183111.htm>.
JAMA and Archives Journals. (2011, September 7). Grief reactions subside in most children and teens whose parent dies suddenly, but may persist or increase in some cases. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 3, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110906183111.htm
JAMA and Archives Journals. "Grief reactions subside in most children and teens whose parent dies suddenly, but may persist or increase in some cases." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110906183111.htm (accessed September 3, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins