The prevalence of PTSD following the violent death of a child and predictors of change 5 years later

Shirley A. Murphy, L. Clark Johnson, Ick Joong Chung, Randal D. Beaton

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122 Scopus citations


In this study, we examined the violent death bereavement trajectories of 173 parents by following them prospectively for 5 years after their children's deaths by accident, suicide, homicide, or undetermined causes. Using latent growth curve methodology, we examined how the initial level of PTSD and the rate of change over time were influenced by 9 predictors: the deceased children's causes of death, parents' gender, self-esteem, 3 coping strategies, perceived social support, concurrent levels of mental distress, and an intervention offered in early bereavement. Six of the nine factors predicted initial levels of PTSD; however, only parents' gender and perceived social support predicted change in PTSD over the 5-year time frame. Five years postdeath, 3 times as many study mothers (27.7%) met diagnostic criteria for PTSD and twice as many study fathers (12.5%) met diagnostic criteria for PTSD compared with the normative samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-25
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was supported by the National Institute for Nursing Research, National Institutes of Health (RO1 NR01926, 1991–96) and by small grants from the University of Washington School of Nursing Women’s Health Research (P30-NR04001, 1994–99), and ADEC, the Association of Death Education and Counseling (1999–2001). We are indebted to the bereaved parents who provided data for the study.


  • Accident
  • Bereaved parents
  • Bereaved parents' long-term outcomes
  • Homicide
  • LGM
  • Latent growth curve modeling
  • Suicide
  • Violent death bereavement


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