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Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2003 Jan-Feb;24(1):5-25.

Suicide ideation among parents bereaved by the violent deaths of their children.

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  • 1Department of Psychosocial and Community Health, Box 357263, School of Nursing, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-7263, USA.


Suicidal behaviors of parents bereaved by a child's suicide have received considerable attention by researchers, but deaths by other violent causes have not. We observed 175 bereaved parents for five years following three types of violent death: accidents, homicides, and suicides. The results showed that the incidence of suicidal ideation (SI) among the study parents was 13% (n = 34) over the 5 years and 9% (n = 24) at the initial data collection four months after the death of an adolescent or young adult child. Comparisons of study parents grouped by the presence or absence of SI showed that after corrections were made for the number of t-tests conducted, statistically significant differences on three of four outcome variables remained (mental distress, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD], but not on acceptance of the child's death). The groups also differed significantly on four of seven mediating variables examined. The hypothesis that parents whose children died by suicide would report the highest incidence of suicidal ideation was not supported. Regression analyses showed that SI was a significant predictor of depression one year, but not five years, after the violent death of a child. The hypothesis that SI would predict both depression and PTSD one year postdeath was not supported. Clinical and policy recommendations are offered.

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