A traumatic life event such as the death of a child can be very devastating and confusing for many couples and people tend to respond in different ways to such trauma due to different factors such as gender differences. Research studies have traditionally focused on the personal effects of trauma on individual family members, whereas less attention centered on the systemic outcomes and consequences that trauma has on family functioning especially from the couples' perspective. Previous research has indicated that parents who lost their children to sudden death are likely to have serious mental distress and some disruption in functioning. However, there remains an important gap in the current literature regarding the causes and outcomes of interpersonal and relational issues that confront a couple dealing with such trauma. The purpose of this qualitative study is to examine the adjustments that may occur in couple relationships following the sudden death of a child. Findings from this study revealed that strategies used by participants (individually and as couples) when dealing with the sudden death of a child contributed to their relationships becoming stronger or deteriorating following the loss. These findings would be an important contribution not only to the existing literature but in conceptualizing, diagnosing, and implementing interventions with bereaved parents.

LLU Discipline

Marital and Family Therapy


Counseling and Family Sciences


School of Science and Technology

First Advisor

Wilson, Colwick

Second Advisor

Chand, Ian P.

Third Advisor

Galbraith, Michael E.

Fourth Advisor

Huenegardt, Doug

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded

January 2011

Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Death, Sudden; Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic; Parents -- Psychology; Social Medicine; Grounded Theory; Couples Therapy; Marital Therapy

Subject - Local

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; Post-traumatic Stress Disorder; Grounded Theory; Family of Origin; Relationships; Sudden Death; Bereavement



Page Count

167 p.

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses & Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives