The long-term impact of early parental death: lessons from a narrative study

February, 2013

This paper explores the experiences of people who have experienced the death of a parent before the age of 18.


While individual experiences of bereavement in childhood were unique and context bound, the narratives were organized around three common themes: disruptions and continuity, the role of social networks and affiliations and communication and the extent to which these dynamics mediated the bereavement experience and the subsequent impact on adult life. Specifically they illustrate how discontinuity (or continuity that does not meet the child's needs), a lack of appropriate social support for both the child and surviving parent and a failure to provide clear and honest information at appropriate time points relevant to the child's level of understanding was perceived to have a negative impact in adulthood with regards to trust, relationships, self-esteem, feeling of self-worth loneliness and isolation and the ability to express feelings. A model is suggested for identifying and supporting those that may be more vulnerable to less favourable outcomes in adult life.

Full Reference

Ellis J, Dowrick C and Lloyd-Williams M. The long-term impact of early parental death: lessons from a narrative study. J R Soc Med 2013; 106: 57-67.

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