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Suicide-bereaved children and adolescents: a controlled longitudinal examination.

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1
Department of Psychology, Ohio State University, Columbus, USA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

The current study examined emotional and behavioral sequelae in children who have experienced parental suicide by completing a secondary analysis of data from the Grief Research Study, a longitudinal study of childhood bereavement.

METHOD:

Twenty-six suicide-bereaved (SB) children, aged 5 to 17 years, were compared with 332 children bereaved from parental death not caused by suicide (NSB) in interviews 1, 6, 13, and 25 months after the death. Children's emotional reactions to the death, psychiatric symptomatology, and psychosocial functioning after the parent's death were determined.

RESULTS:

Grief emotions were common in both groups. SB children were more likely to experience anxiety, anger, and shame than NSB children. SB children were more likely to have preexisting behavioral problems and more behavioral and anxiety symptoms throughout the first 2 years compared with NSB children. Indices of depression, suicidality, and psychosocial functioning differed minimally between groups.

CONCLUSIONS:

SB children experience some "common" elements of bereavement. In addition, they demonstrate some lifetime risk factors as well as subsequent pathology that suggests a negative behavioral trajectory. As these cohorts have not yet passed through the age of risk, long-term follow-up is critical.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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