Objective: To investigate the extent of complicated grief symptoms and associated risk factors among parents whose child died in a pediatric intensive care unit.
Design: Cross-sectional survey conducted by mail and telephone.
Setting: Seven children's hospitals affiliated with the Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network from January 1, 2006, to June 30, 2008.
Participants: Two hundred sixty-one parents from 872 families whose child died in a pediatric intensive care unit 6 months earlier.
Main exposure: Assessment of potential risk factors, including demographic and clinical variables, and parent psychosocial characteristics, such as attachment style, caregiving style, grief avoidance, and social support.
Main outcome measure: Parent report of complicated grief symptoms using the Inventory of Complicated Grief. Total scale range is from 0 to 76; scores of 30 or higher suggest complicated grief.
Results: Mean (SD) Inventory of Complicated Grief scores among parents were 33.7 (14.1). Fifty-nine percent of parents (95% confidence interval, 53%-65%) had scores of 30 or higher. Variables independently associated with higher symptom scores in multivariable analysis included being the biological mother or female guardian, trauma as the cause of death, greater attachment-related anxiety and attachment-related avoidance, and greater grief avoidance.
Conclusions: Parents who responded to our survey experienced a high level of complicated grief symptoms 6 months after their child's death in the pediatric intensive care unit. However, our estimate of the extent of complicated grief symptoms may be biased because of a high number of nonresponders. Better understanding of complicated grief and its risk factors among parents will allow those most vulnerable to receive professional bereavement support.