Symptoms of Internalizing and Externalizing Problems. Modeling Recovery Curves After the Death of a Parent

Sarah J. Schmiege, Siek Toon Khoo, Irwin Sandler, Tim S. Ayers, Sharlene Wolchik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background: The death of a parent is a major family disruption that can place children at risk for later depression and other mental health problems. Design: Theoretically based randomized controlled trial for parentally bereaved children. Setting/Participants: Two-hundred and forty-four children and adolescents and their caregivers from 156 families were randomly assigned to the Family Bereavement Program (FBP) intervention condition (90 families; 135 children) or to a control condition (66 families; 109 children). Data collection occurred from 1996 to 1998. Intervention: Children and caregivers in the intervention condition met separately for 12 two-hour weekly sessions. Skills targeted by the program for children included positive coping, stress appraisals, control beliefs, and self-esteem. The caregiver program targeted caregiver mental health, life stressors, and improved discipline in the home. Both child and caregiver programs focused on improved quality of the caregiver-child relationship. Main Outcome Measures: Child and caregiver reports of internalizing and externalizing symptoms. Results: Longitudinal growth curve modeling was performed to model symptoms over time from the point of parental death. The rate of recovery for girls in the program condition was significantly different from that of girls in the control condition across all outcomes. Boys in both conditions showed reduced symptoms over time. Conclusions: The methodology offers a conceptually unique way of assessing recovery in terms of reduced mental health problems over time after an event and has contributed to further understanding of FBP intervention effects. The intervention program facilitated recovery among girls, who did not show reduction in behavior problems without the program, while boys demonstrated decreased symptoms even without intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-160
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican journal of preventive medicine
Issue number6 SUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Dec 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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