Parental reactions to the loss of an infant child: a review

Scand J Psychol. 1990;31(4):266-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9450.1990.tb00839.x.


This article examines methodological problems, and describes and evaluates commonly explored variables regarding research on the effect of an infant's death on the family. The components of parents' and siblings' grief reactions, and the similarities and differences in parental grief are reviewed. The research shows marked differences between mothers' and fathers' reactions--the grief reactions in mothers being stronger and more prolonged. Different explanations for this are put forward. The effect of different types of loss as well as the effect of the child's life span before death are also reviewed and discussed. Further knowledge is needed to single out the influence of these factors' on the families' reactions. It is concluded that the death of an infant makes the family prone to develop short-term and/or long-term problems in their adaptation to the loss. An integrated effort by health professionals is needed to develop systematic ways of helping families to cope with the death of a child.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Grief*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Sudden Infant Death*