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Title: Bereaved parents' experiences of post-traumatic growth
Author: Waugh, A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6059 5931
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2016
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The death of a child is frequently experienced as traumatic and has the potential to lead to many negative outcomes for parents (e.g. Baddenhorst & Hughes, 2007). Tedeschi and Calhoun (2006) propose that the death of a child poses many psychological challenges, because it is a death which is viewed as 'unnatural', i.e. not in the natural order of the world. Tedeschi and Calhoun (2006) suggest that the death of a child can often lead to both greater levels of distress, and eventually personal growth. Post-traumatic growth refers to positive personal changes in the domains of self-perception, relationships and life philosophy, which are proposed to occur from the struggle to cope with a traumatic event (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1995). Bonanno (2004) reported that resilience reflects the ability to maintain a stable equilibrium, with no period of pathological symptoms. However, post-traumatic growth proposes that the experiences of the traumatic event lead an individual to evaluate their previously held world assumptions (Janoff-Bulman, 1992; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1995), which initially leads to increased distress. It is proposed that changes in world views are crucial in order for growth to occur, because it forces individuals to seek meaning and compensate for the incomprehensibility of the event (Engelkemeyer & Marwit, 2008). Post-traumatic growth has been examined in many populations (Helgeson, Reynolds, & Tomich, 2006) including survivors of violent crimes (Brooks, Lowe, Graham & Robinson, 2016). Linley and Joseph (2004) suggest that the commonality among all events studied in relation to post-traumatic growth, is the struggle with the traumatic experience. They propose that studies of positive personal changes are an important area of research, emphasising that focusing only on the negative outcomes of trauma and adversity can lead to a biased perspective of post-traumatic reactions (Linley & Joseph, 2004). They advocate for the exploration of the potential for both positive and negative outcomes resulting from traumatic experiences (Linley & Joseph, 2004). Furthermore, Calhoun, Tedeschi, Cann, and Hanks, (2010) have suggested the potential clinical usefulness of understanding the experience of positive changes, and the processes which facilitate these changes. The systematic review (chapter 1) endeavoured to identify peer reviewed journal articles which explored bereaved parents' experiences of post-traumatic growth or positive personal change. Furthermore, the systematic review aimed to synthesise current knowledge in relation to the experience of post-traumatic growth in bereaved parents, and to identify whether any themes emerged in relation to factors that may facilitate or prevent aspects of post-traumatic growth. It was identified that there was a paucity of research exploring the experiences of post-traumatic growth in parents whose baby had died. The empirical paper (chapter 2) addressed the paucity of research in this area. It undertook the recent Cochrane review recommendations (Koopmans, Wilson, Cacciatore & Flenady, 2013), which highlighted the need for better understandings of post-traumatic growth in parents whose neonatal baby has died. A qualitative methodology was appropriate in order to address this experience. The Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society kindly supported this research, and facilitated the recruitment of mothers bereaved by neonatal death. Mothers generously provided rich interviews of their experience, detailing the experiences they perceived to be positive personal change and the factors which served as facilitators or barriers to such changes.
Supervisor: Kiemle, G. ; Slade, P. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral