Understanding childhood traumatic grief: A multi-site empirical examination of the construct and its correlates.
Brown, E. J., Amaya-Jackson, L., Cohen, J. A., Handel, S., Thiel de Bocanegra, H., Zatta, E., Goodman, R. F., & Mannarino, A. P. (2008). Death Studies, 32, 899-923.
What was our goal? Almost 5% of children experience the death of a family member prior to age 18, but we know little about children’s mental health responses to bereavement. The purpose of this study was to explore what would make bereaved children more vulnerable to childhood traumatic grief and a combination of PTSD, depression, and grief symptoms.
How did we gather our data? 132 bereaved children and adolescents from across the U.S. completed a survey uniquely designed to measure characteristics, attributions, and reactions to exposure to death, as well as degrees of childhood traumatic grief.
What did we learn? Higher childhood traumatic grief was found for children who viewed the death as traumatic (i.e., life threatening) and for children whose caregivers had a more emotional reaction at the time of the death and more depression at the time of the assessment.
How does this study impact our work? These findings highlight the need for a thorough assessment of bereaved children. We need to understand how they viewed the death as well as their caregivers’ responses to it. If the caregivers are emotionally volatile at the time of the death or at the time of the assessment, they should be included in the therapy.
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