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Brown and his colleagues conducted a study on childhood traumatic grief (brown, Jackson, Cohen, Handel, Bocanegra, Zatta, Goodman, & Mannarino, 2008). They wanted to determine the reaction of children after being exposed to traumatizing events such as the death of a family member.
They measured several characteristics associated with the event. These characteristics included anger, depression, child traumatic grief and posttraumatic stress disorder. From the background of the study, I learnt that about 4% of children experience death of a parent and by the age of 21, the proportion is even greater.
Other research findings indicated that those individuals who had experienced an unexpected loss of a close friend or relative experienced traumatic death. These studies identified the major causes of death as road accidents, homicides, suicides and heart attacks. Other studies also indicated that despite the fact that most coped with the situation, the loss of a parent was associated with psychiatric issues during the first two years after the experience.
Previous studies considered complicated grief (CG) as one of the syndromes in adults. This syndrome was associated with anger, loss of sense of security, bitterness and purposelessness, among other symptoms. Studies on complicated (traumatic) grief in children are on-going.
Early research findings also indicated that childhood traumatic grief (CTG) was associated with children who lost their loved ones in a gruesome circumstance. These experiences were thought to have the ability to affect their ability to negotiate typical grieving tasks. Research indicated that there was a correlation between the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and those of complicated grief.
From previous studies, the risk factors associated with developing CTG were identified as pre-death, death characteristics, immediate post-death, cognitive domain, familial domain and developmental domain.
The study by Brown and his colleagues involved 155 participants (children and adolescents). These individuals had experienced the death someone close and were seeking treatment for mental issues associated with bereavement. In this case, most of the participants had lost a family member.
The study area (where the participants were selected) included five areas around the metropolitan areas. These areas had previously participated in institutions related to mental health services (due to substance abuse or trauma). The children selected were between ages 7 and 18. Their caregivers also participated in the exercise. Of all the children selected for the study, 132 of them completed the exercise successfully.
Data analysis included the running of descriptive statistics on the symptoms of mental illness and assessment of the significance of the correlation of childhood traumatic grief with posttraumatic stress disorder, anger and depression. In this case, zero-order correlation coefficients were conducted. Multiple regression analyses were also conducted in order to determine the importance of the various constructs including demographics, amount of time after death, among others.
The main objective of this study was to assess whether the reactions, attributes and characteristics displayed after a traumatic event (death of a close person) were associated with childhood traumatic grief. Results indicated that they were correlated with depression and posttraumatic stress disorder.
These results support the results from previous studies. In addition to this, anger also appeared to be associated with the same condition. The results also suggested that the level of traumatic grief among children was related to the reactions given by their guardian following the death of a member.
The degree of grief at home was also dependent on the relationship between the child and the parent. The authors argued that when the individuals at home grieved the loss of a loved one, the child did not have an opportunity to grieve individually. Caregivers who are also undergoing distress as they grieve the loss of a loved one may also have difficulty parenting. For this reason, childhood traumatic grief is increased.
This study was interesting and eye opening. This is so because it came to my realization that children as young as seven years old also grieve the loss of a close friend or family member. The effect was even worse when the cause of death was traumatizing by itself. The study was eye opening since it showed the psychiatric effects that sudden death had on children.
This study was meaningful since it addresses issues that affect children today. It has been said that 4% of children lose a family member each year. At age 21, about 50% of the same population loses a close friend or relative.
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This study was important to address some of the psychiatric issues that children faced due to these traumatic events. It has been determined that there are various risk factors associated with the development of childhood traumatic grief. It is important to have these factors in mind in order to help prevent the development of CTG. One of the factors is death characteristics.
This study brought an understanding of the effects that the characteristics of death have. Violent death is usually said to have the ability to increase the symptoms of depression and bereavement in individuals. This study was also important to make the reader understand that children who experienced death of a loved one through violent causes found it difficult to heal from the issue. They were likely to grieve for longer.
This study was also effective in the way it was carried out. The methodology employed was relevant for this primary research. The sample size selected was appropriate. The study site was also well selected since it made up of areas that were previously used for related studies.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network selected the individuals from a population of children who had participated in a study aimed at increasing access to health services for mental cases. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration organized this initiative.
This means that the individuals were purely mental cases due to various issues. In order to avoid biasness, several measures were taken in every institution where selection was done. In each institution, the review board selected a recruitment and assessment process and approved them. After selection, each participant’s consent was sought in order to confirm participation.
The individuals selected for the study were relevant to the study. The individuals included children who were undergoing clinical treatment following the tragic death of a family member, children who lost their fathers to the terrorist attacks of September 11th (particularly those who were working in the police department, fire department and other emergency services), children whose family members were homicide victims, among others.
This study was similar to that of Brown and Goodman (2005). Their study assessed the effects that the terrorist attacks of September 11th had on the children’s mental health. Factors such as general anxiety, depression, traumatic grief, posttraumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric issues were examined.
The authors found that the children who witnessed the traumatic event could not cope with the memories of the day and that it was so horrific that these individuals tried so much to avoid those thoughts. This was different for individuals who did not lose a loved one during the attack. They also argued that traumatic grief captured the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. These included re-experiencing the event, avoiding of thoughts from the event and arousal.
The results obtained from the study were conclusive. These results may also be trusted to be accurate since analysis of data involved the use of certified analytical tools. The use of zero-order correlation coefficients, multiple regression analysis and descriptive statistics was relevant.
The measurement scales used to measure psychiatric symptoms were also relevant since they had been used successfully in previous studies. These included the Extended Grief Inventory-Traumatic Grief subscale (EGI-TG), Child PTSD Symptom scale (CPSS), Children’s Inventory of Anger (ChIA), Mood and Feelings Questionnaire (MFQ) and CARED (Characteristics, Attributions, and Responses after Exposure to Death).
In a similar study, Williams (2007) argued that children are psychologically affected by mass violence just as much as the adults are. Mass violence has been influenced by the growth of terrorist attacks. When such activities occur in institutions where children are present, children are exposed to mass violence and this has devastating effects.
Similar to the factors of the present study, William suggested that the psychological responses from the children towards traumatizing events were determined by several factors. They included the following:
- Biological factors
- Loss of family member
- Psychosocial factors
- Degree of injury from event
- Level of development (cognitive, emotion)
- Disruption of continuity from school or other significant activities
Despite the fact that this study was well done, it had several limitations, which would set the foundation for further research to be done. One of the weaknesses of this study is that the sample size selected at some of the sites was small. This means that it could not be used as a representation of the entire population. Another weakness was the age range of the sample. It was broad and not specific. This may have lead to biases especially because of the small sample size selected for the entire study.
Another weakness of this study was that some of the children who participated in the study had encountered traumatic death of a loved one several months or even years ago. This meant that childhood traumatic grief recorded might have been due to factors other than those associated with the particular traumatizing event (death).
The authors also argued that the versions of the measures used (such as CARED) required psychometric testing in order to ascertain accuracy. Future studies on the field using this tool require ensuring that psychometric testing is done. Further studies would also be vital in order to foster understanding of whether childhood traumatic grief and complicated grief are similar or distinct.
This research was important and may benefit various areas of service to grow and develop. For example, this may be applicable for the development in psychological studies since it fosters a better understanding of the effects of traumatizing events to the mental health of an individual (especially children).
This would make it easier to sort treatment for children displaying symptoms of childhood traumatic grief and posttraumatic stress disorder (Thabet & Vostanis, 1999). This would also show the need to put up a service center to cater for children’s emotional needs in the case where they lose a loved one in a horrifying manner.
On-going research on this area would also be beneficial to health practitioners to understand how to provide remedy to such individuals. The areas that have not been researched sufficiently would provide more insight in order to better understand the long-term effects of such events. The current study also concluded that the involvement of the caregivers during the cognitive behavioural therapy of the affected child greatly facilitated the process.
The authors found out that the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and depression greatly reduced when the caregivers were involved. This progress was also shown by the way that the CTG greatly reduced. However, more research is required in order to foster understanding of how the caregivers influence the traumatized children. This would shape the way therapy is done and to consider whether the presence of the caregivers during therapy is a requirement.
As a student aiming at pursuing a career as a high school social studies teacher, I would benefit from the information provided by the study. Now I have a better understanding of the psychological effects that tragic death due to reasons such as accidents, suicide and homicide have.
I would be able to apply this knowledge in my future class in order to provide counselling to children who are traumatised. I would be able to understand what they are going through and the effects that such events might have on their performance and relationships. Therefore, I would know how to assist them during the healing process.
Brown, E., & Goodman, R. (2005). Childhood traumatic grief: An exploration of the construct in children bereaved on September 11. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 34(2), 248-259.
Brown, E., Jackson, L., Cohen, J., Bocanegra, H., Zatta, E., Goodman, R., & Mannarino, A. (2008). Childhood traumatic grief: A multi-site empirical examination of the construct and its correlates. Death Studies, 32(1), 899-923.
Thabet, A., & Vostanis, P. (1999). Post-traumatic stress reactions in children of war. J. Child Psychol. Psychiat., 40(3), 385-391.
Williams, R. (2007). The psychosocial consequences for children of mass violence terrorism and disasters. International Review of Psychiatry, 19(3), 263-277.