The impact of parental death versus separation from parents on the mental health of Israeli adolescents

L. Canetti, E. Bachar*, O. Bonne, O. Agid, B. Lerer, A. K. De-Nour, A. Y. Shalev

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Early research suggested that the loss of a parent during childhood can lead to depression and other psychopathology in children and adults. More recent research has differentiated between loss due to death and separation from parents and has questioned the link between early parental death and psychopathology. We examined the hypothesis that separation from parents has a more detrimental effect than the death of a parent on the mental health of adolescents in the community. Israeli adolescents (N = 844) with a mean age of 16.7 ± 1.0 years (mean ± SD) participated in this study. Seventy reported that a parent did not live at home during one of three 5-year periods until they reached the age of 15; 37 reported the death of a parent and 777 were from intact families. All participants completed the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), General Well Being Schedule (GWB), Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI), and Perceived Social Support Family/Friends Scales (PSS-Fam and PSS-Fr). Adolescents who had experienced separation from parents had more psychiatric symptoms (BSI), expressed a lower sense of well-being (GWB), experienced less support from their family (PSS-Fam), and felt less cared for and more controlled by their parents (PBI) compared with those belonging to intact families. The death of a parent was not associated with significantly different scores on these variables. When we controlled for parental bonding (PBI) and perceived social support from family (PSS-Fam), the differences between the separation group and the intact family group were no longer significant. The psychological impact of separation from parents involves a greater risk for psychopathology than the death of a parent. The quality of the relationship with the parents moderates the negative impact of separation from them. Copyright (C) 2000 by W.B. Saunders Company.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)360-368
Number of pages9
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


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