PhD in Nursing Science Program

Linda Phillips Riley

Factors Associated with Parental Transition Outcomes


Parental grief transition is characterized by prolonged grief responses that influence the psychological wellbeing of bereaved parents. The relationships of three personal factors (optimism, coping disposition, and gender), and the situational factor of perceived support were investigated in relation to negative grief outcomes (typical grief symptoms, complicated grief, and depressive symptoms) and the positive outcome of personal growth (altered life priorities and enhanced interpersonal relationships after the death of a child). The effect of Time on grief outcomes also was explored.

Methodology: Bereaved parents (N= 48) who experienced the death of a child within the past 30 months completed questionnaires including the Hogan Grief Reaction Checklist (Hogan, Greenfield & Schmidt, 2001), the Inventory of Complicated Grief (Prigerson et al., 1995), the CESD depression scale (Radloff, 1977) and the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996).

Results: Optimism was significantly related to typical grief symptoms, complicated grief, depressive symptoms, and personal growth. Active coping disposition was significantly related to typical grief symptoms. Active coping and support seeking coping dispositions were significantly related to personal growth. Positive reframing was related to all grief outcomes including personal growth. Significant gender differences indicated that mothers had more typical grief responses and depressive symptoms than fathers. Perceived social support was significantly related to complicated grief and personal growth. Time was found to moderate the relationships of support seeking coping disposition, typical grief symptoms and personal growth.

Discussion: More optimistic parents and those who habitually coped more actively using strategies such as positive reframing reported less intense typical grief symptoms and fewer depressive symptoms. Parents who perceived more support had less complicated grief and more personal growth. Although differing in grief responses, both mothers and fathers experienced personal growth. The relationships of support seeking coping disposition, and outcomes of typical grief and personal growth were found to change over time. The finding that parental grief was associated with both positive and negative outcomes is a contribution to the literature addressing parental bereavement. The knowledge gained is the first step toward designing interventions that support parents through their grief transition.