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Bereaved parents’ outcomes 4 to 60 months after their children’s deaths by accident, suicide, or homicide: a comparative study demonstrating differences

Publication year
Murphy, S. A.; Johnson, L. C.; Wu, L.; Fan, J. J.; Lohan, J.

In this article, the authors revisit a controversial issue in the bereavement field: Does one violent cause of death of a child influence parents’ outcomes more than another? To address this question, we observed 173 parents prospectively 4, 12, 24, and 60 months after their children’s deaths by accident, suicide, or homicide. Quantitative and qualitative research methods were used to examine the influence of three types of a child’s violent death and time since death upon 4 parent outcomes (mental distress, post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], acceptance of the child’s death, and marital satisfaction). The results showed a significant interaction for the bereavement Group x Time effect for acceptance of death, a significant main effect for time for all four outcomes, and a significant main effect for group (homicide) for PTSD. Nearly 70% of the parents reported that it took either 3 or 4 years to put their children’s death into perspective and continue with their own lives; however the child’s cause of death did not significantly influence parents’ sense of timing in this regard. Clinical and research implications of the findings are discussed.

Research abstracts