Losing a parent is the most traumatic experience a child could ever undergo.
It is something that no child should ever experience at such a young age. Some examples of the outcomes that children experience when losing the person whom they share their genes with include having a hard time coping with stressful events and fulfilling tasks, eating disorders, negative effects on future relationships and above all, severe depression (Cerniglia et al., 2014; Kaberia, 2016; Wardecker et al.
, 2017). In the present paper, whether you lose a parent at the age of as young as three or fourteen, it can still cause an individual to have psychological difficulties. It is hypothesized that losing a parent very early in childhood can put the child at harm for psychopathology later in life. In the research article by Cerniglia et al.
(2014), proposed how there are multiple significant life events that a child may encounter after the loss of a parent which are potentially negative, for instance the outcome of an individual’s protective resources may be altered. Children are affected or put at risk when they don’t acquire a caregiver who is attentive at fulfilling their needs at such a young age, after their parent passes away. This study was presented to analyze the different psychological effects one has when counting the factors of age and gender of each adolescent group examined. Cerniglia et al. (2014) also presented the idea of the different psychological differences one has when dealing with losing a parent and also dealing with a surviving parent. The sample consisted of three groups and each group’s psychological response with coping with a loss.
Group one consisted of pre-adolescents that ranged from age eleven to thirteen who were evaluated on eating difficulties and dissociative symptoms. The second group ranged from the age of fourteen to sixteen years old whom were assessed on coping with the surviving caregiver. Lastly, group three was analyzed with the symptoms of losing a parent from age zero to three or three to ten years old. The results in this study provided information based on the group of pre-adolescents'(T1) and adolescents’ (T2) scores yet there was no difference in the results based on solely gender differences. The only difference that was found amongst these groups was due to whether you were a male or female was based on the instances of eating disorders.
Females had a higher rate of developing an eating disorder i.e. bulimia, dieting and or anorexia nervosa compared to males when faced with the loss of a parent. Group one showed the major increase with eating disorders from pre-adolescent years to adolescence.
When discussing dissociative amnesia, imaginative involvement, and depersonalization, all three groups showed a decrease from T1 to T2. Another result was presented with the effects of developing anxiety, depression, OCD, paranoia, etc., which concluded that there was a decrease for groups two and three from T1 to T2. And for group one, there was a significant increase for paranoid ideation, interpersonal sensitivity and psychoticism. Additionally, this study analyzed whether there was an effect in children who lost a mother versus a father. The results showed that adolescents who went through the experience of losing a mother showed a significant increase in the total scores of dissociative amnesia, imaginative involvement and depersonalization rather than those who had lost a father. Majority of these results combined showed that the loss of a parent as an adolescent is a horrifying experience that causes future issues with psychological development. It showed that pre-adolescence had more severe psychopathological symptoms than those of adolescents (Cerniglia et al.
, 2014). This is due to the fact that many pre-adolescents need a father or mother figure in their life when going through the physical changes of puberty and adapting to social changes throughout these years. This research article also concluded that children who lose a parental figure within the first three years of their life tend to experience more psychopathological symptoms that endure over time rather than instantaneously.
When discussed about the loss of a mother rather than a father, it resulted in the effects of an adolescent’s identity in which they struggle with defining themselves without this motherly or fatherly figure present. This experiment also studied the effects on pre-adolescence to adolescence when dealing with the effects of having a surviving parent. This may affect one’s development of future relationships because if their parent wasn’t attentive or the child couldn’t rely on this parental figure that it often impeded the growth and maturity of adolescents. This study did not assess the psychopathological risk factors that would occur if an adolescent lost a sibling or grandparent but yet, this study only focused on the loss of a parent. Losing a parental figure was an important topic to touch on in regards to what some children may experience in their future lives and to try to prevent these disorders early on. Furthermore, another research article presented a similar idea of losing a parent during childhood compared to not losing a parent and the effects that come along with this traumatic experience.
In this article by Kaberia (2016), she proposed how interpersonal relationships are noted and that young adults feel the need to belong. Children tend to feel rejection and resentment in which they take that anger out by becoming aggressive throughout their lifetime. Throughout the study it is also noted that the sooner a child loses a parental figure, the more the surviving caregiver needs to work on bereavement issues and how grief may occur for a longer period of time (Kaberia 2016). This study was undergone to provide answers to the following questions: is there a difference between the bereaved and the non-bereaved in regards to interpersonal relationships, does gender affect these interpersonal relationships between the two groups and is there a significant correlation between the age of parents loss towards interpersonal relationships? The sample consisted of two groups. Group one had either lost one or both of their parents at the age of 15 years in which this group consisted of 127 men and women from the age of 25 to 35 years. The second group had both of their parents alive and consisted of 124 men and women (Kaberia 2016).
The results in this study provided information on the two groups and how as a child, losing either one or two parental figures can potentially affect future interpersonal relationships when growing into adulthood. The second group (non bereaved) had increased levels of positive relationships with people in the future. These results also presented the idea of gender differences amongst bereavement and how it was analyzed that men had higher levels of interpersonal relationships whether they had lost a parent or not compared to women who had or had not lost a parent.
This article also displayed the idea of grief being yet unresolved and if participants were still having troubles with dealing with the loss of a parental figure or not. It was founded that more than half of the sampled group were still grieving. This research article also studied the same effect of maternal loss on children similarly to Cerniglia’s study (2014). This study indicated that there are greater negative effects on maternal loss rather than if a child were to lose a father figure just as the other studies presented. These negative effects were associated with social relationships and depending on the age that one loses a mother figure, it can impact relationships. All of these results were analyzed to show that the loss of a parent especially a mother, has negative effects on social relationships and children growing into adulthood.
The bereaved group showed that they are more likely to experience depression and attempts at suicide later in life. This group is harshly affected because they can’t rely on that other parental figure when growing up in which they feel neglected. Attachment and closeness is relatively important in early childhood because they need that one person that they can turn to for anything and everything without even questioning it. Unlike the second group (non-bereaved) in this experiment where they have their parents whom are always there throughout their developmental stage and youth. Ongoing to the difference between men and women when losing a parent, men seemed to have little to no effect on interpersonal relations when one was either bereaved or non-bereaved. And for women, their levels of happiness, self-esteem and psychological factors were reported low. Therefore, it is more likely for women to attend grief counseling because they often need to fulfill those social and emotional needs that they never attained due to them being bereaved.
This research article also touched on the idea of unresolved grief and how people dealt with their grief through actions of abusing drugs, alcohol, attempts at suicide, social isolation and depersonalization. It was presented that people who were still grieving even after a few years of the loss of a loved one, one was deficient in interpersonal relationships (Kaberia 2016). It was noted that mothers help with social development of children and when one is bereaved of a mother early in life, there are negative effects on social relationships. Women need a mother figure more than men do when growing up and sprouting into adulthood. Overall, this study concluded that the loss of a parent or parents is associated with negative effects on social development and future interpersonal relationships. Every child needs a parental figure to hold onto especially through the hard times during the early stages of childhood.
Another research article was presented about the effects of the surviving caregiver’s way of communication with their child when the other parent passes away. Communication is a critical part of early childhood development and their psychological functioning. In this article by Wardecker et al.
(2017), it studied the idea of verbal communication and if more positive emotion words were presented in a child’s life after bereavement if it led to decreased levels of depression, anxiety and avoided the process of coping. Research has shown that if a mother puts out positive parenting behaviors towards their bereaved child then it will lead to lower distress (Shapiro et al. 2014). If surviving caregivers often speak of positive enforcing words, it can lead to lower rates of suicide and the bereaved child will often find meaning in life. This study was presented to focus on the psychological functioning of bereaved children and how their surviving caregivers play a crucial a role in psychological development.
The sample had been provided with 39 bereaved children and their surviving parental figure in which they had to take part in a reminiscing task. The study hypothesized that positive words that were spoken by the surviving parent were inversely associated with children’s psychological functioning and also believed that the use of the parent’s positive words would positively affect the levels of psychological distress for children who had lost their parent 3 months ago or less and inversely related to those who had lost their parent more than 3 months ago (Wardecker et al. 2017). In this study, children and their surviving caregivers were part of a ten minute conversation where they discussed positive reminiscing.
These prompts included talking about their favorite memories with the deceased parent and what the child had in common with the deceased parent (Wardecker et al. 2017). Children were also given several tests that were used to determine their anxiety level, depressive symptoms, and avoidant coping. Younger children and females had higher levels of anxiety. The results concluded that there were effects on positive emotional language in regards to anxiety levels in children. But these words were only associated with children who had lost a parent 3 and a half months or more ago. In regards to avoidant coping, this study could not find a correlation between positive emotion language on avoidant coping.
This study also found that there was a positive correlation between emotional language and children’s adjustment after one of their parents dies. Lastly, it was also noted that if the surviving caregiver continues to use positive words towards the bereaved then it is more likely for the memory of the deceased parent to be kept alive in the child’s head. These results in this study were analyzed to display that the surviving parent can use positive emotion words to better assist a positive outcome for the child’s psychological functioning and development.
It was proven that the alternative parent’s use of these kind and empathetic words resulted in a less distressed child after the loss of the other parent. The child would experience fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. It is important for the parent to use these positive enforcing words soon after the other parent dies to ensure there would be little anxiety, depression and avoidance in death related conversations later in the child’s life. It is also best for the surviving caregiver to express normal emotions like sadness because the bereaved child may happen to benefit from observing this kind of behavior (Wardecker et al. 2017).
It is crucial to provide the child with as many positive emotion words as possible to help benefit the positive future of this child. Together, these results from each research article indicate that depressive symptoms are most common after the death of a child’s parent but with the help of a caregiver, these symptoms can be alleviated. It was also reported that bereaved children need some sort of attachment to the caregiver in order to benefit from relationships in the future and their psychological functioning (Cerniglia et al.
, 2014; Kaberia, 2016; Wardecker et al., 2017). Children who have lost a parental figure may experience resentment but if a child has lost their parent during pre-adolescence then it is crucial for the surviving caregiver to provide comfort and positive reinforcement throughout these years.
This surviving caregiver needs to provide the bereaved child with comfort in order to increase happiness and lower the rates of depersonalization and suicide. Children need to know that their other parent will be able to assist them through the grieving process and throughout their adolescent development. It can be concluded from these three research articles that there should have been adequate and yet, step by step advice in regards to the surviving caregiver after their significant other dies to know how to benefit the bereaved child.
It would be best to know what kind of positive reinforcement would be better during the multiple stages of a child’s adolescent development. This would better help in understanding the process that the surviving caregiver must go through to promote positive psychological factors for the bereaved child’s future.