Complicated Grief, Depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms Among Bereaved Parents following their Child’s Death in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit: A Follow-Up Study

for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network (CPCCRN)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Parents often suffer reduced mental health after their child’s death; however, the trajectory and risk factors are not well described. Objective: Describe the change in complicated grief, depression, and post-traumatic stress symptoms among parents between 6 and 13 months after their child’s death in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), and factors associated with 13-month symptoms. Methods: Parents whose children died in 1 of 8 PICUs affiliated with the Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network completed surveys 6 and 13 months after their child’s death. Surveys included the Inventory of Complicated Grief (ICG), the Patient Health Questionnaire-8 (PHQ-8) for depression, and the Short Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Rating Interview (SPRINT). Parents provided sociodemographics. Charts were reviewed for child characteristics. Results: One-hundred and fifty seven parents of 104 deceased children completed surveys at both time points. Mental health symptoms declined over time (mean (SD)): ICG (33.8 (15.4) vs. 30.5 (15.2), p < 0.001), PHQ-8 (9.0 (6.4) vs. 7.3 (5.8), p < 0.001), and SPRINT (14.1 (8.3) vs. 12.0 (8.2), p < 0.001). After controlling for 6-month scores, higher 13-month ICG was independently associated with sudden unexpected death; higher PHQ-8 with Black race, insecure attachment style, and sudden unexpected death; and higher SPRINT with having a high school level of education (compared to college degree or higher). Conclusion: Mental health symptoms improve among parents during the first 13 months after their child’s death; however, symptoms persist for many. Black parents and those whose children die suddenly may be high risk for poor adjustment during bereavement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine(all)

Keywords

  • bereavement
  • child
  • complicated grief
  • death
  • depression
  • infant
  • parent
  • post-traumatic stress

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