Childhood parental bereavement: The risk of vulnerability to delinquency and factors that compromise resilience

Draper, Ana and Hancock, Maggie (2011) Childhood parental bereavement: The risk of vulnerability to delinquency and factors that compromise resilience. Mortality; Promoting the interdisciplinary study of death and dying, 16 (4). pp. 285-306. ISSN Print ISSN: 1357-6275 ; Online ISSN: 1469-9885

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Background: In previous research, it has been established that a child who has experienced the death of a parent is vulnerable to a variety of concerns, including grief, distress and dysphoria, particularly in the first year following the death. In addition, one in five parentally-bereaved children is likely to develop a psychiatric disorder. As Kemshall argues, the growing body of evidence linking delinquency in adolescents to previous traumatic life experiences, such as parental loss, with a large number of children affected every year makes this is a very important area for research. This paper considers the effects of parental bereavement in childhood, and is part of a wider study exploring the future for children who experience a parent's death. We found that parentally-bereaved children are significantly more vulnerable to delinquent behaviour than those who have not experienced parental bereavement. Thus there is a need for awareness of the variables that form protectors to the vulnerability to delinquency formed, in part by the experience of a parent's death. Methods: We used secondary data from the National Child Development study from which children who had been parentally bereaved by the age of 16 were identified. The Rutter Behaviour Scale highlighted which of those children also displayed delinquent behaviours; the Pearson Chi Square was used to establish significant links between these two factors. Potential moderating factors of social class background, gender of child, gender of dead parent and age of child at the time of bereavement were also examined. Results: The findings present as a set of risk variables that increase a child's susceptibility to delinquent behaviour, with specific reference to children who have been parentally bereaved. Children who were parentally bereaved before the age of 16 were significantly more likely to display delinquent behaviour than those who were not, as indicated by scoring 9 or above, the cut off point on the Rutter Behaviour Scale (p < .001). These scores of 9+ at 16 are significantly more likely (p < .001) for children who were bereaved between the ages of 12 and 16 years. For all children (including children not parentally bereaved), boys were significantly more likely than girls to score 9+ on the Rutter Behaviour Scale at 16 (p < .001). However, gender was not a significant factor in parentally-bereaved children, indicating parentally-bereaved girls are more likely to display similar levels of delinquent behaviour to non-parentally-bereaved boys. Children from manual backgrounds are significantly more likely than those from non-manual backgrounds to be parentally bereaved (p < .001).

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Published online: 09 Nov 2011
Uncontrolled Keywords: Childhood Parental Bereavement, Delinquent Behaviour, Cultural Values, Social Values, Social Class, Social Norms
Subjects: Emotions, Affective Psychology > Grief/Mourning/Loss
Families > Parent Child Relations/Parenthood
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services

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