Park EM, Deal AM, Yopp JM, Chien SA, McCabe S, Hirsch A, Bowers SM, Edwards T, Rosenstein DL. Parenting through grief: a cross-sectional study of recently bereaved adults with minor children. Palliat Med. 2021 Dec;35(10):1923-32. doi: 10.1177/02692163211040982

BACKGROUND: Grieving adults raising parentally-bereaved minor children experience persistently elevated symptoms of depression and grief. However, the factors associated with their mental health outcomes are not well understood.

: To investigate the psychosocial and demographic characteristics associated with grief distress and depressive symptom severity in bereaved adults with minor children.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional, web-based survey.

SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Eight hundred forty-five bereaved adults raising minor (age <18 years) children who had experienced the death of a co-parent. Primary outcomes were grief distress (Prolonged Grief Disorder-13), depressive symptoms (Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System-Depression), and widowed parenting self-efficacy (WPSES).

RESULTS: Mean grief scores were 33.5; mean depression scores were 58.3. Among the 690 individuals more than 6 months bereaved, 132 (19.3%) met criteria for prolonged grief disorder. In adjusted models, participants reporting higher grief scores were more recently bereaved, identified as mothers, non-Caucasian, had lower education and income, and had not anticipated their co-parent's death. The statistical modeling results for depression scores were similar to grief scores except that depression was not associated with anticipation of co-parent death. Parents reporting lower WPSES scores had higher grief and depression scores. Retrospective assessments of more intense parenting worries at the time of co-parent death were also associated with higher grief and depression scores.

CONCLUSIONS: For bereaved adults with minor children, unanticipated co-parent death was linked with higher grief distress but not symptoms of depression. Addressing parenting concerns may represent a common pathway for improving the mental health of parentally-bereaved families.

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