Effects of Therapeutic Intervention on Parentally Bereaved Children’s Emotion Reactivity and Regulation 15 Years Later

Alexander F. Danvers, Brandon G. Scott, Michelle N. Shiota, Jenn Yun Tein, Sharlene A. Wolchik, Irwin I. Sandler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Family Bereavement Program (FBP) is a family-based intervention for parentally bereaved children and surviving caregivers. Results are reported of a randomized controlled trial, examining intervention effects on emotional reactivity and regulation of young adults who participated in the program 15 years earlier. Participants (N = 152) completed four emotion challenge tasks: reactivity to negative images, detached reappraisal while viewing negative images, positive reappraisal while viewing negative images, and reengagement with positive images. Outcomes included cardiac interbeat interval (IBI), pre-ejection period (PEP), and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) as well as self-reported emotional experience and regulation effectiveness. Direct intervention effects and effects mediated through improved parenting were estimated. Several significant effects were observed in primary analyses; however, none remained significant after correction for familywise Type I error. Parenting mediated FBP effects on IBI during negative reactivity (b = 15.04), and on RSA during positive reengagement (b = 0.35); the latter effect was accounted for by changes in breathing. Intervention condition was a direct predictor of self-reported detached reappraisal effectiveness (b = 1.00). Intervention and gender interacted in predicting self-reported negative emotion during the negative reactivity (b = 1.04) and positive reappraisal tasks (b = 1.31) such that intervention-condition men reported more negative emotions during those tasks. Although these findings should be considered preliminary given the limited power of the corrected statistical tests, they suggest long-term effects of family intervention following the death of a parent on offspring’s emotional reactivity and regulation ability that should be pursued further in future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1017-1027
Number of pages11
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


  • Cascading effects
  • Coping
  • Emotion
  • Emotion regulation
  • Parental bereavement
  • Parenting
  • Resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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