Assessment Tools for Children who Experience Traumatic Loss: A Systematic Review

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Children who experience the traumatic (i.e., violent and/or unexpected) death of a loved one are at risk for a range of adverse developmental and mental health problems, including pathological processes of grief. Over the last decades, conceptualizations of maladaptive grief have varied, resulting in a range of assessment tools and no “gold standard” measure to assess symptoms of prolonged grief in children. The current paper is a systematic review of studies that measured grief in children who experienced traumatic loss in order to determine the measures currently used in the literature with children who experience traumatic loss. Searches were conducted according to the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses in PUBMED, PsycINFO, and OVID and through hand searches of relevant reference lists. Two authors reviewed each study yielded by searches and conducted data extraction on included studies. Studies were included if they were peer-reviewed, included a measure of grief, and consisted of samples of children (age 18 and younger) whereby at least a portion experienced traumatic loss. Thirty-nine studies met inclusion criteria, from which 17 measures were identified. The most commonly used measure was the Inventory of Complicated Grief (n = 10 studies) followed by the Extended Grief Inventory (n = 6). Most studies used different measures and variations of the same measures to assess similar constructs. All but one measure relied on child self-report. More standardization of measurement across studies is needed, along with parent and/or teacher reported measures.

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Trauma, Violence, & Abuse

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