Psychological and parental functioning of widowed fathers: The first two years.

Widowed parents play a critical role in promoting family adaptation and facilitating their children’s adjustment to the loss of a parent; yet the psychological wellbeing of these parents has received scant attention. In this study we examined depressive symptoms and grief intensity in 252 spousally bereaved men with dependent-age children. Participants learned of the study and completed initial surveys at variable time points during their first 2 years of bereavement. Depressive and grief symptoms remained persistently high, with 45% of the sample exceeding screening thresholds for clinically significant depressive symptoms two years after the death of their spouses. In linear regression models, higher intensity or frequency of depression and grief symptoms were associated with poorer psychological adaptation, lower parenting self-efficacy, and lower parenting satisfaction scores. Relationships between fathers’ distress and potentially modifiable end-of-life variables regarding their spouses were examined. Notably, those who reported that their wives were at peace with dying had lower depressive and grief scores at various intervals. Overall, the magnitude and duration of the depressive and grief symptoms suggests that widowed fathers’ psychological distress does not quickly abate over the first 2 years of bereavement, which may be attributable to the unique set of bereavement challenges facing widowed parents such as facilitating their children’s grief, assuming sole parenting responsibilities, and managing a household on their own. The findings underscore the need to further examine emotional distress in widowed parents and how their wellbeing impacts family functioning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)