Stillbirth and the couple: A gender-based exploration

Joanne Cacciatore, John DeFrain, Kara Jones, Hawk Jones

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    28 Scopus citations


    The stillbirth of a baby occurs in about 1 in 110 families yearly. Yet, little is understood about the ways in which grieving mothers and fathers experience the baby's death. This study is intended to explore the ways in which bereaved parents perceive and cope with the death of their baby and how the baby's death affects them both individually and as a couple. Respondents answered open-ended questions about their experiences. Results suggest that mothers and fathers grieve individually and collectively, struggling to find meaning in their losses. Responses to a baby's death may depend, in part, on the parent's gender, as well as on the individual's locus of control, couple and family cohesion, the degree of attachment to the baby, and social support. The death of a baby may create conflict in a marital dyad, yet many couples also experience a greater sense of closeness. A therapeutic relationship that is nonhierarchical and egalitarian, focusing on "keeping the therapist close to the experience of each partner" (Vatcher & Bogo, 2001, p. 76) may offer a place where the marital relationship can flourish after such a tragic experience.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)351-372
    Number of pages22
    JournalJournal of Family Social Work
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - 2008


    • Death of a child
    • Gender
    • Marital relationship
    • Stillbirth

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Development
    • Sociology and Political Science


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