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Sunday, 12 June 2016

How Many Children Need Help to Grieve

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When you look at the context in which a child grieves, it is not only bereavement that causes grief.   There is of course the passing of a close family member, friend or family pet. Divorce and separation can also cause grief and there are children in care that suffer from grief too.

In 2014 Scotland had an estimate of  911, 282 children living in Scotland (statistics.gov.scot). From these figures 11,553 are looked after children who have been placed in care away from there family ((www.gov.scot)).  That is 1.26% of our child population.  Before I continue with further statistics, it must be noted that, not all statistics were readily available so various statistics were utilised to help with some rudimentary estimations.

Great care has been taken to give a realistic outlook on the number of children in Scotland who are at high risk of suffering grief, although an estimation of how many of these children may go on to develop serious mental health issues if they are not supported through their grief is not available at this time.  Further research would need to be evaluated before any form of calculation could be carried out on this.

From the 911,282 children in Scotland, 11,553 are in care.  276,874 of the total children in Scotland are 0-4 years unfortunately no statistics could be found for 2014 in relation to age groups in care however, based on early intervention plans and different forms of attachment, it is being assumed here that, one, there will be children of this age group in care and two, that some of them will suffer grief at the loss of their parent/s.   This in effect gives us out first figure of 11,553 children who all have the potential to develop the emotional trauma of grief.

Bereavement statistics were unavailable for the UK at this time, however Stats taken from a USA Study gave the estimate of 3.5% of their total population of children under the age of 18 suffering a bereavements of some kind (Haine, Ayers, Sandler, & Wolchick, 2008; as cited in Quin-lee, 2014).  Now these statistics are taken from the whole of the USA, and without going into too much detail, we need to factor for gun crime in some states and cities which add to the death rate.  So lets say for arguments sake that we can reduce that number by half to 1.75%, of Scotland's total child population, that would mean that an estimate of a further 15, 947 children in Scotland that experience bereavement of family, friends or pets and thus, grief.

In order to gain insight into children suffering grief due to divorce or separation, I looked at divorce rates and calculated the total children, using the average child per family as calculated using the census results.  The number of Divorces lodged in court for the year 2012 was 13,679, from this figure 2, 272 were regarding parental rights (http://www.gov.scot).  We can assume from this that at least 2,272 children are not being allowed to see one of the parents (which may be for legitimate reasons) this does raise the issue of another 2,272 children suffering grief, however the number of standard divorces was over 10,000 with no insight into why.

We have 911,282 children living in Scotland and in 2011, 1.5 million families (Scotland Census).  This roughly equates to 1.64 children per family so from the 2,272 children from parental rights that equates to an estimate of 3, 726 children not being able to see a parent or caregiver and thus grieving at some stage for that person.  From the 10000 we cannot assume there are children involved in all of these cases however there will be some who don't take the case to court for parental rights so to remain conservative with the figures. I used the family total in Scotland divided by divorcee lodges, This equates to 7.9% , so from the 10000 standard divorces  an additional 1,265 children are at risk from suffering grief.  It must be added here that out of court separations is not factored into these results as no statistics could be found for this.

In total the estimated number of children who suffer grief due to the above mentioned contexts is compiled of:
Children in Care 11,553
Bereavement 15,947
Divorce  4.991
Total 31,037

This equates to 3.4% of our child population in Scotland with the potential to develop mental health issues caused by grief that is not supported in a way that the child can respond too.  It can also be added that children can suffer prolonged (Spuij, Dekovic, &  Boelen, 2015) or cyclic type of grief due to who have lost contact with parents due to being in care or divorce/separation as their loss is different to that of a bereavement loss. It is in these instances that children are at their most vulnerable to developing depression (Spuij, Dekovic, &  Boelen, 2015), which, if not dealt with can result in adulthood mental health issues (Deutsch, Lynch,Zlotnik, Matone, Kreider, & Noonan, 2015)

During writing all of these statistics and  totals one form of grief was overlooked.  I had to actually stop typing this update as I found my niece, and noticed she was looking through google at pictures and looked sad. She was mourning the loss of one of her icons, who was recently shot on tour.
Although this type of grief may not seem serious to others, I do recall many headlines after the 'Friends' finale, stating how lost people were without their weekly visit form the cast to their TV screens.  I believe this also happened after the TV show 'Lost' and again after 'Sons of Anarchy', In regards to bereavement, I have seen hundreds of posts of sadness for the loss of many Icons this year alone.  If this is an issue for adults, we cannot overlook that it will can pose an issue for some children, who's cognition's are not yet ready to fully comprehend their own feelings.

The subject of children suffering from grief is widely avoided and very limited in research due to ethical reasons (which are entirely justified), this however leaves a gap in certain areas such as the cyclical grief, children in care can go through.  This is a topic I am 100% committed too as I see far too many children lost in the world of adults, figuring out their emotions in their limited cognitive ways and this is not always enough to help them avoid conditions such as anxiety or depression which can re-occur throughout their life in more severe forms.  I see ALL children as Scotland's future and it breaks my heart to see them miss out on their growth into adulthood in a happy childlike, and natural way.  It breaks my heart to see adults who would have had a chance if only they had been supported through various trauma's as a child.  Grief is one of the more common emotional traumas that we must all, at some point go through. We as adults know how it feels to loose someone, to feel alone, to feel empty.  A child doesn't always understand these concepts, so why must they suffer this alone.  Please help me help them and donate to a cause that could potentially help a huge percentage of these 31,000 children, so as they have the change to grow naturally into healthy happy adults.

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