This study considered whether experiencing the death of a child is associated with subsequent psychological distress in older populations, as well as variation in both exposure and vulnerability to the death of a child among Black, Hispanic, and White older parents.
We used multilevel models to link the death of a child with subsequent distress for 9,763 non-Hispanic White, 2,496 non-Hispanic Black, 1,014 foreign-born Hispanic, and 712 U.S.-born Hispanic parents from the Health and Retirement Study, 2006-2016.
The death of a child is associated with increased psychological distress in mid to later life for Black, White, and Hispanic parents, with greater vulnerability for foreign-born Hispanic parents. Notably, Black and U.S.-born Hispanic parents are disadvantaged because of the additive effects of their greater exposure to bereavement and their higher distress levels regardless of bereavement status. These effects persist net of additional stressors associated with race/ethnicity.
The death of a child is a traumatic life course event associated with lasting psychological distress for aging parents. Black and U.S.-born Hispanic parents are disadvantaged in that they are more likely than White parents to experience the death of a child, and foreign-born Hispanic parents may be disadvantaged by greater vulnerability to distress following child death.