Suicide-bereaved children and adolescents: II. Parental and family functioning

Julie Cerel, Mary A. Fristad, Elizabeth B. Weller, Ronald A. Weller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Objective: The current study extends the authors' earlier examination of suicide-bereaved (SB) children from the Grief Research Study, a longitudinal study of childhood bereavement after parental death, by examining the children's family history of psychopathology and family environment before and after death. Method: Twenty-six SB children, aged 5 to 17 years, and their 15 surviving parents were compared with 332 children bereaved from parental death not caused by suicide (NSB) and their 201 surviving parents in interviews 1, 6, 13, and 25 months after the death. Results: Suicide completers evidenced more psychopathology than parents who died from reasons other than suicide. Contrary to expectations, surviving SB parents were not more impaired than NSB parents. Before the death, SB families were less stable than NSB families and relationships with the deceased SB parent were compromised. However, no differences were detected between groups in children's relationships with their surviving parents. Likewise, few differences were found in social support or changes in religious beliefs. Conclusions: SB children generally come from families with a history of psychopathology and substantial family disruption. However, surviving SB parents do not exhibit higher rates of psychopathology than other bereaved parents and many have positive relationships with their children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-444
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by NIMH grants 1 RO1 MH44135 and 1 RO1 MH45534 . The authors thank all members of the Grief Research Study staff for their years of hard work, evening interviews, and long drives. They also sincerely thank the participant families for their candor and willingness to complete an extensive interview sequence, especially at such a difficult time in their lives.


  • Bereavement
  • Family
  • Suicide
  • Survivor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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