Mothers’ Self-reported Grief, Depression, and Anxiety as Predictors of Perceptions of Child Grief in U.S. Military Families

The death of a parent profoundly impacts children. Although some predictors of child grief outcomes following parental death have been suggested, few empirical studies have examined these predictors, particularly roles that surviving parents’ own grief and psychological functioning may play as predictors. Surviving parents’ mental health may affect children’s grief through multiple pathways: 1) Bereaved children rely on surviving adult caregivers for support and guidance, 2) Parents may model adaptive and/or maladaptive grieving for children. 3) Parents’ mental health may influence parenting behavior in ways that affect child grief. We examined relations between mothers’ self-reported mental health and their observational reports of children’s grief reactions using 12 items derived from the Multidimensional Grief Reactions Scale (Layne, Kaplow, Pynoos, 2011) in 198 bereaved US military families. Preliminary results show that mothers’ grief, depression, and anxiety differentially predict their perceptions of adaptive versus maladaptive child grief. We discuss implications for the valid assessment of adaptive and maladaptive grief reactions in the context of surviving caregivers’ mental well being, which may bias parent reports of child adjustment. Findings highlight the need for examination of concordance between parent and child reports in assessment of child grief.