[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 28-Jul-2006
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Contact: Whitney Hale
[email protected]
University of Kentucky

University of Kentucky professor's child bereavement research makes psychiatric news

Julie Cerel, an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky College of Social Work, and four colleagues are presenting answers to questions about child bereavement and its effects. Their research analyzes psychopathology associated with bereavement due to loss of a parent in a two-year study published in the June Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The study is also a topic of discussion in the July 21 Psychiatric News.

As noted in the Psychiatric News article, "Psychopathology in Bereaved Kids Less Complicated than Expected," by Aaron Levin, research documented by Cerel and her colleagues indicates that while a parent's death puts a child at a greater risk of psychopathology or a mental disorder, it is not as great as in those children already diagnosed with major depression.

The study "Childhood Bereavement: Psychopathology in the 2 Years Postparental Death" explores the connection between the death of a parent and the likelihood of that child experiencing more psychiatric problems within 2 years following the death. Results were taken from a study of 360 parent-bereaved children, 110 depressed children and 128 community control children found in a 50-mile radius of Columbus, Ohio.

Cerel and her colleagues' research provides data that was previously lacking on how children fare after the death of a parent. Not only did the study find bereavement had a negative affect on children although at a lesser degree than clinical depression, they also found data indicating that the family's socioeconomic status and the surviving parent's level of depression influenced the child's risk of mental disorder.

The results also point to possible future study on other issues thought to be connected to child bereavement.

"Future research will go beyond symptoms of psychopathology and look at grief emotions in these children, risk behaviors, and behavior in school," said Cerel.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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