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Understanding children’s health after a sibling’s death and what factors may affect it is important for treatment and clinical care. This study compared children’s and their parents’ perceptions of children’s health and identified relationships of children’s age, gender, race/ethnicity, anxiety, and depression and sibling’s cause of death to these perceptions at 2 and 4 months after sibling death.
64 children and 48 parents rated the child’s health “now” and “now vs before” the sibling’s death in an ICU or ER or at home shortly after withdrawal of life-prolonging technology. Children completed the Child Depression Inventory and Spence Children’s Anxiety Scale. Sibling cause of death was collected from hospital records.
At 2 and 4 months, 45% to 54% of mothers’ and 53% to 84% of fathers’ ratings of their child’s health “now” were higher than their children’s ratings. Child health ratings were lower for: children with greater depression; fathers whose children reported greater anxiety; mothers whose child died of a chronic condition. Children’s ratings of their health “now vs before” their sibling’s death did not differ significantly from mothers’ or fathers’ ratings at 2 or 4 months. Black fathers were more likely to rate the child’s health better “now vs before” the death; there were no significant differences by child gender and cause of death in child’s health “now vs before” the death.
Children’s responses to a sibling’s death may not be visually apparent or become known by asking parents. Parents often perceive their children as healthier than children perceive themselves at 2 and 4 months after sibling death, so talking with children separately is important. Children’s perceptions of their health may be influenced by depression, fathers’ perceptions by children’s anxiety, and mother’s perceptions by the cause of sibling death.
Roche, Rosa M.; Brooten, Dorothy; and Youngblut, JoAnne M., "Parent & Child Perceptions of Child Health after Sibling Death" (2016). Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences. 40.
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