Children’s Mental Health and Well-Being After Parental Intimate Partner Homicide: A Systematic Review
When one parent kills the other, children are confronted with multiple losses, involving their attachment figures and their direct living environment. In these complex situations, potentially drastic decisions are made, for example, regarding new living arrangements and contact with the perpetrating parent. We aimed to synthesize the empirical literature on children’s mental health and well-being after parental intimate partner homicide. A systematic search identified 17 relevant peer-reviewed articles (13 independent samples). We recorded the theoretical background, methodology, and sample characteristics of the studies, and extracted all child outcomes as well as potential risk and protective factors. Children’s outcomes varied widely and included psychological, social, physical, and academic consequences (e.g., post-traumatic stress, attachment difficulties, weight and appetite changes, and drops in school grades). Potential risk and protective factors for children’s outcomes included 10 categories of pre-, peri-, and post-homicide characteristics such as cultural background of the family, whether the child witnessed the homicide, and the level of conflict between the families of the victim and the perpetrator. We integrated the findings into a conceptual model of risk factors to direct clinical reflection and further research.
KeywordsBereavement Domestic violence Femicide Intimate partner violence PTSD Uxoricide
We would like to thank Dr. Peter Sidebotham and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on previous versions of the manuscript. Dr Alisic has been supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (Rubicon Fellowship 446-11-021) and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (Early Career Fellowship 1090229).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Alisic, E., Van der Schoot, T. A. W., van Ginkel, J. R., & Kleber, R. J. (2008). Looking beyond posttraumatic stress disorder in children: Posttraumatic stress reactions, posttraumatic growth, and quality of life in general population sample. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 69, 1455–1461.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Alisic, E., Zalta, A. K., Van Wesel, F., Larsen, S. E., Hafstad, G. S., Hassanpour, K., & Smid, G. E. (2014). Rates of post-traumatic stress disorder in trauma-exposed children and adolescents: meta-analysis. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 204, 335–340. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.113.131227.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Bandura, A., & Walters, R. H. (1963). Social learning and personality development. New York: Holt Rinehard and Winston.Google Scholar
- Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and Loss. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Currier, J. M., Holland, J. M., & Neimeyer, R. A. (2007). The effectiveness of bereavement interventions with children: A meta-analytic review of controlled outcome research. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 36, 253–259. doi: 10.1080/15374410701279669.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
- Foa, E. B., Keane, T. M., Friedman, M. J., & Cohen, J. A. (2009). Effective treatments for PTSD: Practice guidelines from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Goodman, R. F., Cohen, J., Epstein, C., Kliethermes, M., Layne, C., Macy, R., & Ward-Wimmer, D. (2004). Childhood traumatic grief educational materials (p. 11). NCTSN. Retrieved 10 June 2014, http://www.nctsn.org/nctsn_assets/pdfs/reports/childhood_traumatic_grief.pdf.
- Harris-Hendriks, J., Black, D., & Kaplan, T. (2000). When father kills mother: Guiding children through trauma and grief. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Hill, R. (1949). Families under stress. Westport, CT: Greenwood.Google Scholar
- Kaufman, A. S., & Kaufman, N. L. (1983). Kaufman Assessment Battery for children—Interpretative manual. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.Google Scholar
- Marsac, M. L., Kassam-Adams, N., Delahanty, D. L., Widaman, K. F., & Barakat, L. P. (2014). Posttraumatic stress following acute medical trauma in children: A proposed model of bio-psycho-social processes during the peri-trauma period. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 17, 399–411. doi: 10.1007/s10567-014-0174-2.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Spuij, M., Reitz, E., Prinzie, P., Stikkelbroek, Y., de Roos, C., & Boelen, P. A. (2012). Distinctiveness of symptoms of prolonged grief, depression, and post-traumatic stress in bereaved children and adolescents. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 21, 673–679. doi: 10.1007/s00787-012-0307-4.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- UNODC, World Drug Report 2011 (United Nations Publication, Sales No. E.11.XI.10) http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-andanalysis/WDR2011/World_Drug_Report_2011_ebook.pdf.