A Pilot Study of Physiological Reactivity in Children and Maternal Figures Who Lost Relatives in a Terrorist Attack

Betty Pfefferbaum, Phebe Tucker, Haekyung Jeon-Slaughter, James R. Allen, Donna R. Hammond, Suzanne W. Whittlesey, Shreekumar S. Vinekar, Yan Feng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Trauma is thought to interfere with normal grief by superimposing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. This exploratory pilot study examined the association between traumatic grief and objectively measured physiological reactivity to a trauma interview in 13 children who lost relatives in the Oklahoma City bombing as well as a potential link between children and their maternal figures in physiological reactivity. Although the authors found no association between posttraumatic stress and objectively measured physiological reactivity among children, they found significant differences in objectively measured reactivity associated with loss and grief. Children who lost "close" relatives evidenced greater objectively measured reactivity than those who lost "distant" relatives. For the most part, children with higher levels of grief evidenced greater objectively measured reactivity than those with lower levels of grief. The most interesting of the findings was the parallel pattern in objectively measured physiological reactivity between children and their maternal figures along with a positive association between children's objectively measured physiological reactivity and maternal figures' self-reported physiological reactivity. Research using larger representative samples studied early and over time is indicated to determine the potential significance of these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-412
Number of pages18
JournalDeath Studies
Volume37
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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    Pfefferbaum, B., Tucker, P., Jeon-Slaughter, H., Allen, J. R., Hammond, D. R., Whittlesey, S. W., Vinekar, S. S., & Feng, Y. (2013). A Pilot Study of Physiological Reactivity in Children and Maternal Figures Who Lost Relatives in a Terrorist Attack. Death Studies, 37(5), 395-412. https://doi.org/10.1080/07481187.2011.649938