The Grief of Parents After the Death of a Young Child

J Clin Psychol Med Settings. 2019 Sep;26(3):321-338. doi: 10.1007/s10880-018-9590-7.


Research demonstrates that severe forms of grief and grief-related pathology exist in the general population. Less attention, however, has been paid to the grief of parents following the death of a young, dependent child. In this review, we summarize a search of Pubmed, PsycINFO and Web of Science from 1995 to 2017, using the terms 'parental complicated grief', 'parental traumatic grief', and 'parent Prolonged Grief Disorder', specifically addressing parental grief and identified risk factors for complicated or prolonged grief. Forty-two studies met criteria and indicate a significant burden of complicated or prolonged grief in parents of children dying from virtually any cause. It appears that the empiric literature is undermined by great variability, including the composition of samples, the causes of death studied, the psychometric measures used, and post-loss intervals. We conclude that the uniform severity of grief experiences following the death of a young child is potentially a distinct subtype of grief, deserving of attention in its own right in future research and diagnostic formulations.

Keywords: Complicated grief; Death of child; Grief; Parental grief; Prolonged Grief Disorder.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Grief*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Psychometrics