MONDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Grief experienced by
children and teens after the sudden death of a parent fades over
time for most, but some have more complicated or prolonged grief
that can lead to depression and interfere with normal functioning,
a new study finds.
Researchers initially looked at 182 children and teens, aged 7
to 18, who had a parent die by suicide, sudden natural causes or
accidental injury. One- and two-year follow-ups were completed by
165 and 141 of the participants, respectively, said the researchers
at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University
of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
For 59 percent of the children and teens, grief scores decreased
significantly between nine and 21 months after the parent's death
and then remained low. For 31 percent of the youngsters, grief
scores increased at about nine months and then steadily declined
through 33 months. For 10 percent of the participants, grief scores
were high at nine months and remained high through the 33rd month
after the parent's death.
The researchers found that higher grief scores were associated
with parental death due to accidental injury and higher
self-reported depression scores at nine months.
They also found that the 10 percent of youngsters with high
grief scores that did not decline much by 33 months were more
likely to have functional impairment at nine months after the
parent's death, a previous history of depression, and new-onset
post-traumatic stress disorder.
Depression was more likely among the children and teens if their
surviving parent had complicated or prolonged grief, if they felt
others were responsible for the death of their parent, or if they
experienced other challenging life events since their parent's
The study appears in the September issue of the
Archives of General Psychiatry.
"These findings have important clinical implications regarding intervention and prevention efforts," the researchers concluded in a journal news release. "It is imperative to assess the surviving parent and to intervene, when appropriate, to improve the outcomes for parentally bereaved children and adolescents."
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has
children and grief.