Childhood Bereavement and Lower Stress Resilience in Late Adolescence

Beatrice Kennedy*, Ruoqing Chen, Unnur Valdimarsdóttir, Scott Montgomery, Fang Fang, Katja Fall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Although childhood traumatic experiences are recognized as important determinants for adolescent psychiatric health in general, our objective was to explore the specific influence of childhood bereavement on the stress resilience development trajectory. Methods: In this national register-based cohort study, we identified 407,639 men born in Sweden between 1973 and 1983, who underwent compulsory military enlistment examinations in late adolescence, including measures of psychological stress resilience. We defined exposure as loss of a first-degree family member in childhood, and estimated relative risk ratios (RRRs) for reduced (moderate or low), compared with high, stress resilience with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using multinomial logistic regression. Results: Loss of a parent or sibling in childhood conferred a 49% increased risk of subsequent low stress resilience (RRR, 1.49, 95% CI, 1.41–1.57) and an 8% increased risk of moderate stress resilience (RRR, 1.08, 95% CI, 1.03–1.13) in late adolescence. There was also a graded increase in risk with increasing age at loss; teenagers were at higher risk for low resilience (RRR, 1.64, 95% CI, 1.52–1.77) than children aged 7–12 (RRR, 1.47, 95% CI, 1.34–1.61) and ≤6 years (RRR, 1.16 95% CI, 1.02–1.32). The excess risk was observed for all causes of death, including suicide and unexpected deaths as well as deaths due to other illnesses. The associations remained after exclusion of parents with a history of hospitalization for psychiatric diagnoses. Conclusions: The long-term consequences of childhood bereavement may include lower stress resilience in late adolescence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-114
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Swedish Society for Medical Research (SSMF) and the Karolinska Institutet through a Research Associate Position and the Strategic Research Program in Epidemiology to F.F., and by a China Scholarship Council (No. 201206100002 ) to R.C. The funders have not had any role, neither in study design, in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, in the writing of the report, nor in the decision to submit the article for publication. All authors have worked fully independently from funders.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine

Other keywords

  • Adolescent health
  • Childhood bereavement
  • Stress resilience


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