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Study shows that losing a parent at an early age can cause long term damage

13 February 2013

A study exploring the impact of early parental death has revealed the long-term damage and suffering that can be experienced by individuals in adult life if appropriate levels of support are not provided at the time of bereavement.

A recent study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine explores the detrimental and long-term impact of the loss of a parent on children.  The study has revealed that without appropriate support at the time of bereavement, the damaging effects can be felt for as long as 71 years after the bereavement. These effects can include feelings of loneliness, the inability to express feelings, isolation and low self-esteem.

According to the researchers, Professor Mari Lloyd Williams, Dr Jackie Ellis and Professor Chris Dowrick, there are a number of common themes that will affect experiences related to the loss of a parent. These include disruptions and continuity, the role of social networks and affiliations, and communication.  Professor Lloyd Williams, from the University of Liverpool, said that separating children from their families and friends and moving home make the adjustment to parental death significantly more difficult and increases stress in bereaved children. This in turn leads to the likelihood of them experiencing emotional difficulties and feelings of insecurity and loneliness as an adult.

The research also reveals that bereavement support needs to offer a great deal more than counselling. Additional to keeping the child’s circumstances as familiar as possible, the support given should increases stability, continuity and cohesion and should be introduced at every level of the family system.  "Our research suggests that if the social network addresses the necessary 'mothering or fathering' then a child does not appear to be affected in adult life," says Professor Lloyd Williams. 

Read the full article

"The Importance Of Bereavement Counseling For Children Losing Parent At Early Age."Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 12 Feb. 2013. Web.
13 Feb. 2013.
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