Figure 1 portrays three of the scenes 20/20 presented March 15, 2010.
Figure 1: Heather, Rachel, and Unnamed Girl in 20/20 Program (adapted from Stossel, 2010).
Statement of the Problem
For any individual, the death of a family member, friend, parent or sibling may often be overwhelming. For adolescents, the death of person close to them may prove much more traumatic as it can disrupt adolescent development. Diana Mahoney (2008), with the New England Bureau, reports in the journal article, "Navigating adolescent grief," that Erik H. Erikson created a seminal model of psychosocial development that classified adolescent years as a time period when teens form their personality. These trying teen times typically may be defined by the opposing extremes of integration and separation. Mahoney (2008) asserts that as adolescents struggle to belong and strive to be accepted by others, particularly their peers; they simultaneously struggle to become individuals. For the adolescent to successfully pass through this developmental stage, he must achieve a delicate balance. When teens experience grief, they may consider themselves to be "different" or cut off from their peers. They frequently find it difficult to fit into a certain group or crowd, yet they may also struggle with conflicting feelings they experience relating to their grief.
In the journal article, "Dimensions of adolescent alcohol involvement as predictors of young-adult major depression," W. A Mason, et al. (2008), recounts a number of significant concerns regarding depression, particularly Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). MDD, Mason, et al. explain depicts a prevalent psychiatric condition many adolescents experience. "In the United States, the lifetime and past-year prevalences of MDD among adults have been estimated to be 17% and 7%, respectively. Depression, which here refers to clinical diagnoses of MDD, is a serious public health concern" (Mason, et al., 2008, ¶ 2). Depression, which increases risk for some illness as well as health-compromising behaviors, including suicide, may evolve from grief and/or denote depression that began in an adult's adolescence.
Purpose of Study
During the dissertation, the researcher aims to examine grief reactions the grieving child experiences that need to be addressed to counter potential links to ensuing health and/or mental health problems in the bereaved child's later life. The primary research question serves to guide the study: How may one best address concerns challenging the grieving child that, when not addressed, may link to the child experiencing ensuing health and/or mental health problems in his/her later life?
The researcher's primary reason/s for choosing to focus on psychometric tools and/or psychological tests mental health professionals may utilize to measure adolescent grief and/or adolescent depression relates to the researcher's desire to help guide the treatment of adolescents experiencing grief as well as and youth suffering from depression. The researcher also expects that the study will proffer additional therapeutic interventions clinicians may incorporate or draw from to augment their work with grieving and/or depressed adolescents.
Approximately 50% of children experiencing the death of a parent experience complications functioning in ordinary everyday activities. During the first year after the death of a parent, one in five of grieving children will need help from a specialist. One in five bereaved children will not display any evidence of difficulty during the weeks immediately after the death of a significant person. Two years later, however, the child may confuse individuals around him by evidencing problems (Cranwell, 2010). Following the loss of a significant person in their lives, some children will experience emotional and/or physical issues. Some bereaved children will not be able to concentrate as they usually do. When they do not obtain the help they need, some grieving children will display behavioral problems.
The researcher's current career choice involves work with children who have experienced the death of a nuclear or extended family member. Poignant responses like those portrayed in the 20/20 episode, noted at the start of the study, regularly remind the researcher of the critical need for capable counselors to invest time in enhancing their counseling skills; to educate themselves regarding relevant research in their field; to empower themselves to more effectively help children with hurting hearts heal.
Significance of Study
During the study, the researcher investigates ways one may best address concerns and communicate support to help facilitate the healing process in children and/or adolescents when they experience grief after a death or loss. Amanda L. Williams and Michael J. Merten (2009), both with Oklahoma State University, examine, how one of the newer communication venues, interactions on social networking sites online, assist in the grieving process after the death of a loved one or friend. In the study, "Adolescents' Online Social Networking Following the Death of a Peer," Williams and Merten explain:
The ability to share thoughts and feelings with others about grief and loss has been linked with positive coping outcomes vs. internalized emotional responses such as ruminating about loneliness or fear of death…. Adolescents often seek to minimize emotional damage from grief through wishful thinking, denial, and disengagement...; however, negative outcomes such as health problems, interpersonal conflict, depression, anxiety, and somatic problems may arise if individuals excessively ruminate vs. discussing their emotions with others…. Teenagers, especially girls, may talk about their feelings, turn to religion, look for any positive outcomes from the stressor, and vent; boys are more likely to use humor or to disengage via substance use… (Williams & Merten, 2009, pp. 68- 69).
Following the loss or death of a loved one, a child or an adolescent experiences, like the adult, experiences grief. The grief experience for the child or adolescent replicates the adult response in some ways yet dramatically differs in others. While the child or adolescent struggles with the ensuring emotions accompanying the grief process, those who care for them need to not only communicate truths regarding the experience, but also empower the young person to talk about how/what they feel. The study proves significant as it confronts readers with contemporary issues as well as credible information to counter current concerns regarding tools, tests and interventions to address adolescent grief and/or adolescent depression.
The primary research question which serves to guide the study queries: In what ways may attachment theory serve as a positive, practical process to compliment curative counseling with grieving children ages 7 to 11 who have experienced the death of a nuclear or extended family member?
To address the study's primary research question, the researcher investigates the following three sub-research questions:
1. What grief experiences may a grieving child, age 7 to 11, encounter following the death of a nuclear or extended family member?
2. How does loss/death relate to attachment theory?
3. What benefits may consideration of attachment theory proffer that could positively contribute to counseling a grieving child, age 7 to 11?
Overview of Study
The organization of the mixed methods study includes five chapters as the following depicts:
Chapter I: The "Introduction" chapter for the study introduces the mixed methods study, Children, Grief, and Attachment Theory, as well as relates information regarding its primary area of focus, attachment theory. The first chapter presents the problem statement, rationale, significance, and an overview of the study as well as presents the primary research question and three sub-research questions.
Chapter II: The Literature Review, the study's second chapter a presents a credible contemporary compilation of relevant literature to address the primary research question and the three sub-research question. An Junghyun (2001) stresses: "A critical literature review within a specific field or interest of research is one of the most essential, but also complex activities in the process of research" (¶ 1). The literature review aims to relate the most relevant, significant sources the reader needs to understand the research relating to study's focus examining a specific phenomenon. The dissertation uses the thematic design; utilizes the following three sub-headings from the study's research questions for themes.
1. Grief Encounters Children Experience
2. Loss/death Relating to Attachment Theory
3. Consideration of Attachment Theory
Chapter III: The Methodology chapter explains that the mixed-methods methodology, a compilation of qualitative and quantitative research methods mixed methods practice qualifies ad both "old" yet "emergent" research.
To conduct the mixed methods study, based on a historical-comparative analysis of contemporary research, the researcher implements a mixed methods study.
Need to answer: Will methodology includes population and sample, procedures and measures, hypotheses, level of significance, and statistical tests? Will study include interviews or a survey?
Chapter IV: During the Analysis, the fourth chapter, the researcher combines key information accessed during the literature review with data retrieved from the study tools to relate primary findings.
Need to determine whether interviews or survey will be used.
Chapter V: During the final chapter, Discussion, Conclusion, and Recommendations, the researcher recounts findings the research reveals through the study venture regarding the investigation of ways attachment theory may serve as a positive, practical process to compliment curative counseling when a child age7 to 11 experiences the death of a nuclear or extended family member. The researcher also shares conclusions regarding the study effort and…