Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Lawrence Grebstein


In an effort to investigate parental experience and adaptation to a child's terminal illness, fifty-four parents (twenty-seven married couples) were administered a structured interview and two objective instruments: the Grief Experience Inventory (Sanders et al. 1978) and the Parental Experience Assessment Form (Rando 1979) from two months to three years following the death of their · child from cancer. The parental grief experience was analyzed with respect to the variables of: support received during the illness, the influence of previous loss, the length of the child's illness, the length of time since the death, the sex of the parent, the parent's satisfaction with the child's treatment experiences, parental anticipatory grief, and the amount of parental participation during the child's hospitalizations. Chief among the results are the findings that there appears to be a phenomenon in the third year of bereavement which is associated with an intensification of the grief experience and suggests that parental bereavement may actually worsen with time. Other findings indicate that there are "optimum" amounts of anticipatory grief, participation with the hospitalized child, and lengths of illness, below and above which parental adjustment is compromised. Mothers appeared to sustain grief experiences reflective of higher degrees of intensity and poorer adjustment as compared to fathers, although only to a statistically significant level on the variables of Somatization and number of participation behaviors during the child's hospitalizations. Parents appeared overwhelmingly satisfied with their child's treatment experiences. The amount of support received during the illness of the child had a mixed effect upon the parents' grief and adjustment. Previous loss tended to be associated with poorer bereavement outcomes, although not to a statistically significant level.



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