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Evaluation of a New Child Bereavement Support Service


A parent's death causes children considerable psychological distress both in the short and longer term. Children experience grief, sadness and despair following a parental death; depression is frequent and can persist for at least a year after the parental death; one in five children are likely to manifest disturbances at a sufficient level to justify referral to specialist services. There is conflicting evidence as to whether or not bereavement interventions help. One of the problems is there is a dearth of well-designed studies. Much of the evaluation research to date has focussed on single centre studies, with small samples and no control groups, with the data being predominantly qualitative and descriptive in nature. Marie Curie Cancer Care have developed child support services in six of their centres.


This study aims to compare the clinical and cost effectiveness of this new child bereavement support service in addition to the usual care provided for children who have lost a parent through death from cancer. It also evaluates qualitatively the children's and families' perception of the new support service. The design is a parallel group, multi-centre randomised controlled trial. Cluster randomisation, stratified by hospice, will be used to assign families to either the intervention arm or the control arm (existing services) for fourteen months. Outcomes are child emotional and behavioural problems, children's coping strategies, and mental health and quality of life of the surviving parent. Funded by the PPP Foundation, and conducted in conjunction with Marie Curie Cancer Care, the Principal investigators are Dr. Susie Wilkinson and Professor Michael King, University College London; Professor Jacqueline Barnes, Birkbeck; and Rebecca Turner, Cambridge University.