TitlePsychological and environmental correlates of HPA axis functioning in parentally bereaved children: preliminary findings.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsKaplow, JB, Shapiro, DN, Wardecker, BM, Howell, KH, Abelson, JL, Worthman, CM, Prossin, AR
JournalJ Trauma Stress
Date Published2013 Apr
KeywordsAdaptation, Psychological, Adult, Child, Female, Grief, Humans, Hydrocortisone, Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System, Parent-Child Relations, Parental Death, Parents, Pituitary-Adrenal System, Saliva, Stress, Psychological, Surveys and Questionnaires

<p>This study examined bereaved children's HPA-axis functioning (cortisol awakening response; CAR) in relation to psychological distress, coping, and surviving parents' grief reactions. Participants included 38 children (20 girls) with recent parental loss (previous 6 months) and 28 of their surviving caregivers (23 women) who were assessed using self-report instruments and in-person, semistructured interviews. Interviews involved discussions about the child's thoughts and feelings related to the loss. Participants provided 3 saliva samples at home (awakening, 30 minutes later, and evening) over 3 successive days, beginning on the day following the interview. Results show a significant relation between dampening of the child's Day 1 CAR and more symptoms of anxiety (r = -.45), depression (r = -.40), posttraumatic stress (r = -.45), and maladaptive grief (r = -.43), as well as higher levels of avoidant coping (r = -.53). Higher levels of parental maladaptive grief were also associated (r = -.47) with a dampening of the child's Day 1 CAR. Our results raise the possibility that blunted CAR may be a result of accumulating allostatic load and/or a result of emotionally challenging events (discussions regarding the deceased) and their subsequent processing (or lack thereof) within the family, which may be particularly stressful for those bereaved children experiencing high levels of psychological distress, avoidant coping, and parental maladaptive grief.</p>

Alternate JournalJ Trauma Stress
PubMed ID23526635
PubMed Central IDPMC5790317
Grant ListK08 MH076078 / MH / NIMH NIH HHS / United States
K08 MH76078 / MH / NIMH NIH HHS / United States