The Affects of Death &Child Adjustment Problems After the Loss of a Loved One
When a child looses a loved one to death, it can have a profound impact on their life. While most children will recover from the most severe trauma symptoms within a year or two, others can continue to show scars from the loss well into adulthood. Here are some of the short-and long-term affects of death on children.
A) Behavioral problems are common following the loss of a parent or other caretaker. One study found that 40% of bereaved children had behavioral disturbances in the clinical range compared to 10% for those with intact families. (Kranzler et al., 1990) These behavioral problems often persist for quite some time after the death. (Kaffman & Elizur, 1983)
B) Children may have a harder time enjoying things they had before the loss such as life, work, friendship and love. (Lenhardt & McCourt, 2000)
C) There is a pronounced link between parental loss and major depressive disorders that can often persist well into adulthood. (Kendler et al., 2002; Kivelae et al., 1998; Bifulco, Harris & Brown, 1992)
D) The death of a parent or other important loved one often has profound implications on a child's social development. Children who experience the early death of a parent tend to have difficulty with intimate relationships and social functioning. (Shroeder & Gordon, 1991) This can carryover well into adulthood. Research indicates that experiencing the death of a parent in childhood significantly added to the incidence of loneliness and social isolation years later. (Marrone, 1997)
D) The death of a parent often leaves a child insecure, and this can predispose them to a tendency for phobias well into adulthood. (Worden, 1996) They are in general more likely to be fearful, more distrusting, and more prone to anxiety disorders. (Tweed et al., 1989)
E) The loss of a loved one often disrupts a child's cognitive functioning, thus impacting their academic performance at school or otherwise creating developmental delays.
F) A variety of other pathological conditions can develop. One study found that 77% of children who experienced early parental loss met research diagnostic criteria for a major psychiatric disorder in adulthood, mostly for affective disorders. (Breier et al., 1988)