Peer relationships of bereaved siblings and comparison classmates after a child's death from cancer.

Gerhardt CA, Fairclough DL, Grossenbacher JC, Barrera M, Gilmer MJ, Foster TL, Compas BE, Davies B, Hogan NS, Vannatta K
J Pediatr Psychol. 2012 37 (2): 209-19

PMID: 21946038 · PMCID: PMC3282281 · DOI:10.1093/jpepsy/jsr082

OBJECTIVES - To compare peer relationships among bereaved siblings and matched classmates, and to examine gender, grade level, and time since death as moderators.

METHODS - Families were recruited from cancer registries at four hospitals 3-12 months after a child's death. Measures of social behavior and peer acceptance were completed by children in the classrooms of 105 bereaved siblings (ages 8-17 years). Teachers also reported on children's social behavior. Three classmates were matched for gender, race, and age to each bereaved sibling to form a comparison group (n = 311).

RESULTS - Teachers reported bereaved siblings were more prosocial than comparison classmates. Peers perceived bereaved boys as more sensitive-isolated and victimized, while bereaved siblings in elementary grades were perceived by peers as less prosocial, more sensitive-isolated, less accepted, and as having fewer friends. Peers and teachers viewed bereaved siblings in middle/high school grades as higher on leadership-popularity.

CONCLUSIONS - Bereaved siblings who were male and in elementary grades were more vulnerable to social difficulties, while those in middle/high school may exhibit some strengths. Ongoing research to inform the development of interventions for bereaved siblings is warranted.

MeSH Terms (15)

Adolescent Age Factors Bereavement Child Female Humans Interpersonal Relations Male Neoplasms Peer Group Schools Sex Factors Siblings Social Behavior Social Support

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