The prevalence of PTSD following the violent death of a child and predictors of change 5 years later

J Trauma Stress. 2003 Feb;16(1):17-25. doi: 10.1023/A:1022003126168.


In this study, we examined the violent death bereavement trajectories of 173 parents by following them prospectively for 5 years after their children's deaths by accident, suicide, homicide, or undetermined causes. Using latent growth curve methodology, we examined how the initial level of PTSD and the rate of change over time were influenced by 9 predictors: the deceased children's causes of death, parents' gender, self-esteem, 3 coping strategies, perceived social support, concurrent levels of mental distress, and an intervention offered in early bereavement. Six of the nine factors predicted initial levels of PTSD; however, only parents' gender and perceived social support predicted change in PTSD over the 5-year time frame. Five years postdeath, 3 times as many study mothers (27.7%) met diagnostic criteria for PTSD and twice as many study fathers (12.5%) met diagnostic criteria for PTSD compared with the normative samples.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bereavement*
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Death*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Violence*