Grief in children and adolescents

The plane crash in Ukraine brings up many questions related to loss and grief. How will those left behind cope with the devastating event? How can we support them? With regard to how young people cope with bereavement, Mariken Spuij’s recent PhD thesis provides new insights. She studied grief and its pathological extreme, Prolonged Grief Disorder, focusing on three topics:

  • The phenomenology and correlates of Prolonged Grief Disorder
  • The role of negative thinking in Prolonged Grief Disorder
  • The development and piloting of the ‘Grief-Help’ intervention for children

Prolonged Grief Disorder

Pathological grief is characterized by persistent severe distress during more than 6 months after the loss, and including symptoms such as separation distress, disbelief regarding the death, numbness, and a sense that life is meaningless. Many of the symptoms are normal grief reactions; it is their intensity and duration that signal a need for additional support.

Similar to the relation between trauma and PTSD, Dr. Spuij and colleagues concluded that Continue reading

One in six children develops PTSD after trauma, but differences exist

children and PTSDHow many children develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder after a traumatic experience such as an assault, a car crash, war or disaster? William Yule – one of the godfathers of child traumatic stress research – once pointed out that rates reported in separate studies varied from 0 to 100%.

So what is the average rate to be expected? With an international team of collaborators, we conducted a meta-analysis to answer this question.

The wide variety in individual study results suggests that various factors may be in play: apparently not every type of exposure, set of circumstances or group of children is related to similar PTSD rates. In addition, there may be methodological variation in the studies. Continue reading

Mental health consequences of childhood cancer

mental health childhood cancerWorldwide, more than 175,000 new cases of childhood cancer are diagnosed each year.

Georgie Johnstone, a recent vacation scholar at the Trauma Recovery Lab talks you through some thought-provoking new research on cancer and PTSD.

Overall, in children under 15 years living in the industrialised world, childhood cancer is the 4th most common cause of death. However, childhood cancer is no longer the death sentence it once was, with overall survival rates in high-income countries now at about 80 percent.

How are survivors affected by the potentially traumatic experience of their diagnosis and treatment, and how does it impact on the rest of their life and that of their family? Research has indicated that cancer survivors are at an increased risk not only from somatic late effects related to cancer and treatment, but also for depression, anxiety and antisocial behaviour. Lifetime prevalence of cancer-related PTSD has been estimated at 20-35% in survivors and 27-54% in their parents. However, new research in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has challenged these estimates.

The risk of a focusing illusion
Continue reading

Ear for Recovery

Ear for RecoveryWe know that parents are incredibly important for children’s recovery from a traumatic event. Social support is one of the strongest predictors of trauma recovery. On the other hand, parental distress after trauma is related to children’s posttraumatic stress later on.

But how do parents exactly influence children’s trajectory after something bad has happened? Continue reading

We’d rather rely on others to do the hard work

Social capitalIt’s called the collective action problem: we’d rather rely on others to do the hard work.

In a cohesive community however, it is more likely that people will volunteer to become active. The reason? The enforceable trust that comes with the cohesion.

This is important for how you organise your daily working life (make sure your team is cohesive) :-) but may also explain why some communities have less trouble than others to overcome disaster experiences. Continue reading