We investigated whether the self-system belief of fear of abandonment mediated the effects of intervention-induced change in 2 protective factors—positive parenting and adaptive coping—and one risk factor—stressful events—on youth mental health problems and maladaptive grief. This study extends prior research on fear of abandonment in youth who experience parental death by examining pathways through which a program reduced fear of abandonment and, in turn, affected subsequent pathways to child mental health problems in the context of a randomized experiment.
This is a secondary data analysis study. We used data from the 4-wave longitudinal 2-arm parallel randomized controlled trial of the Family Bereavement Program conducted between 1996 and 1999 in a large city in the Southwestern United States. The sample consisted of 244 offspring between 8 and 16 at the pretest. They were assessed again at posttest, 11-month follow-up, and 6-year follow-up. Offspring, caregivers, and teachers provided data.
Mediation analyses indicated that intervention-induced reductions in stressful events were prospectively associated with a lower fear of abandonment. For girls, fear of abandonment was related to self-reported maladaptive grief and teacher-reported internalizing problems 6 years later.
This study extends prior research on the relation between intervention-induced changes in risk and protective factors and improvements in outcomes of bereaved youth. The findings support the reduction of stressful events as a key proximal target of prevention programs for bereaved children.