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26-05-2015 | Original Paper | Uitgave 1/2016

Journal of Child and Family Studies 1/2016

Couple’s Relationship After the Death of a Child: A Systematic Review

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 1/2016
Sara Albuquerque, Marco Pereira, Isabel Narciso
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The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s10826-015-0219-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


When a child dies, the parents must address the changes in their relationship as well as the way that these changes affect their individual adjustment. These two perspectives are addressed in this systematic review. Five databases were systematically searched for papers published in English between January 2000 and February 2014. Of the 646 publications, 24 papers met the inclusion criteria. The results suggest that a child’s death can cause cohesive as well as detrimental effects on a couple’s relationship. Variables that may produce differential outcomes for the marital relationship include situational factors, such as the cause and type of death and the child’s age at the time of death; dyad-level factors, such as surviving children, the pre-death characteristics of the relationship, communication and incongruent grieving; and individual-level factors, such as the family of origin’s processing of trauma, social support, religious affiliation and finding meaning. Aspects such as marital quality and the couple’s interdependence were found to influence each parent’s individual adjustment. Larger, prospective, ethically conducted studies should be implemented to consolidate these findings. Mental health professionals may benefit from a deeper understanding of the risk and protective factors regarding marital adjustment after a child’s death.

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