Role of Secondary Stressors in the Parental Death–Child Distress Relation

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Abstract

This study examined the psychological consequences and secondary stressors associated with death of a parent. The sample (N = 116) consisted of 26 youths who had lost a parent to homicide, 45 youths who had lost a parent to natural death, and 45 nonbereaved youths. Youngsters completed face-to-face interviews, while their guardians completed measures assessing the children's functioning. Results based on both child and guardian reports indicated that parental death was associated with an increase in secondary stressors, regardless of the mode of death. Findings based on guardian reports also revealed that parental death was related to increased internalizing distress, and that parental death due to homicide was related to increased externalizing distress. Furthermore, secondary stressors mediated the parental death–child distress relation such that parental death led to an increase in stressors, which in turn led to increased child distress. Implications for secondary and tertiary preventive interventions are discussed.

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