The Unequal Burden of Child Death Adds to Disadvantage in Psychological Distress for Black and Hispanic Parents
University of Texas at Austin Population Research Center
Hundreds of studies have documented the adverse psychological consequences after parents experience the death of a child. However, very little is known about racial/ethnic variation in life course experiences following the death of a child. These gaps in knowledge are striking in the American context of systemic racism and recent public attention to grief associated with premature mortality in racial and ethnic minority communities. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, CAPS co-director Debra Umberson and colleague Rachel Donnelly investigate how experiencing a child’s death is associated with parents’ subsequent psychological distress in mid to later life. They find that all parents who experienced a child’s death had higher levels of psychological distress in mid to later life than their nonbereaved counterparts but Black and Hispanic parents who experienced a child’s death had the highest levels of psychological distress. The authors advocate for more screening of bereavement-related risks in mid to later life with appropriate intervention to improve mental health outcomes. Published in partnership with UT Austin’s Population Research Center.