Interventions for bereaved parents following a child's death: A systematic review

Palliat Med. 2015 Jul;29(7):590-604. doi: 10.1177/0269216315576674. Epub 2015 Mar 24.


Background: A child's death is one of the most stressful events that parents and siblings may experience. Interventions for bereaved families following a child's death have been examined over the last several decades. However, there is little high-quality evidence to support any rationale for determining optimal interventions for bereaved parents and siblings.

Aim: This study objectives were to evaluate the efficacy of interventions for bereaved parents and siblings following a child's death, to collect empirical evidence of the quality of these intervention studies, and to identify methodological challenges.

Design: A systematic review of data from randomized controlled trials of interventions for parents or siblings bereaved after a child loss.

Data sources: We searched MEDLINE (from 1949), PsycINFO (from 1806), and CINAHL (from 1806) databases for key terms and checked the reference lists of potentially relevant articles.

Results: We identified nine articles describing eight eligible trials from which we extracted data. The four types of intervention included support groups, counseling, psychotherapy, and crisis intervention. Most intervention trials showed some effect on participants in at least one outcome measure. However, we identified many severe methodological issues and outcome sets in these trials.

Conclusion: Very little evidence of sufficient quality is available to confirm the effects of intervention measures on bereaved parents and siblings following a child's death. Well-designed randomized controlled trials are needed to improve our understanding of the efficacy and implementation of interventions targeting bereaved parents and siblings.

Keywords: Bereavement; child loss; parents; systematic review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Death*
  • Bereavement*
  • Child
  • Counseling / methods
  • Empirical Research
  • Humans
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Psychotherapy / methods
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*