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Bereaved youth are at greater risk for adverse mental health outcomes, yet less is known about how social context shapes health for bereaved children. Ecosocial theory is employed to conceptualize bereavement in the context of sociodemographic factors.
This longitudinal study used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Of the 15,454 pregnancies enrolled, 5050 youth were still enrolled at age 16.5 and completed self-report questionnaires on life events and emotional/behavioral symptoms.
Sociodemographic precursors associated with parent, sibling, or close friend bereavement included maternal smoking, parental education levels, and financial difficulties. The significant yet small main effect of higher cognitive ability, assessed at age 8, on reduced emotional/behavioral symptoms at age 16.5 (β = −0.01, SE = 0.00, p < 0.001) did not interact with bereavement. Bereavement of a parent, sibling, or close friend was associated with a 0.19 point higher emotional/behavioral symptom log score compared to non-bereaved youth (95% CI: 0.10–0.28), across emotional, conduct, and hyperactivity subscales.
Descriptive findings suggest sociodemographic precursors are associated with bereavement. While there was an association between the bereavement of a parent, sibling, or close friend and elevated emotional/behavioral symptoms, cognitive ability did not moderate that effect.
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