Death of a parent in childhood and resilience in adulthood: a qualitative study

Date

2006-12

Authors

Roeber, Sarah

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore the phenomenon of resilience in adults who have experienced the loss of a parent during childhood. A qualitative method within a theoretical framework of life course perspective was used for this study. The specific objectives were to explore: (a) How individual characteristics influence resilience after the death of a parent, (b) how an individual's family conditions influence resilience, (c) how external influences impact resilience after the death of a parent, and (d) how participants perceive the death of a parent as a part of resilience in adulthood. This study was restricted to adult women and men whose parent died when the participant was between the ages of 3 and 12 years. Using a phenomenological approach, in-depth interviews were utilized to gather data. A total of 19 women and men were interviewed. Based on the information extracted from the four research questions, seven emergent themes were identified: disposition of the child, parental influence on self-concept, influence of death on

family dynamics, understanding and coping with loss, social support, impact of loss on adult relationships, and increased independence at an early age. In addition, analysis of the interview data revealed sub-themes of the importance of sibling relationships, the relationship with the surviving parent, support from extended family, the funeral as a sense of closure, religious beliefs and cultural traditions, family communication about the deceased, and education as protective factors for resilience. Implications for professionals who work with individuals and families are noted, as well as areas for further research. This study supports the need for additional research conducted among children and their family members who experienced the death of a parent. In addition, further investigation should be undertaken from a resilience perspective with families overcoming adversity.

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Keywords

Children and death, Parents -- Death, Death -- Psychological aspects

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