There is ample evidence that the death of a parent during a woman's childhood can affect her adult psychological and emotional status. For example, Bifulco, Harris and Tirrill (1992) found that girls who lost their mother during childhood had double the rate of depression and anxiety disorders in adulthood than did girls who did not experience childhood bereavement.
Further, the authors observed a particularly high rate of adult depression among those whose mothers died before they were 6 years of age; the degree of adult depression was also observed to be significantly associated with a measure of childhood helplessness (the more helpless girls felt in terms of their bereavement, the greater their adult levels of depression). However, there was no such link of either adult disorder or childhood helplessness with age at loss under 6 years for those losing a mother by separation. According to the authors, evidence indicated that experience with the mother before the loss (usually affected by ongoing illness) explained the link of adult depression or anxiety with her early death.
Similarly, McLeod (1991) found that the early loss of a parent was strongly associated with childhood depression in both men and women with the association being stronger for women. Relevant to the topic of this review, McLeod (1991) also observed that perceived quality of subjects' marriages was directly related to depression experienced in connection with parental loss.
McLeod's finding leads to an important question: what is the effect, if any, on the intimate adult relationships of women due to the death of a parent in childhood? In other words, the research question that is examined in this thesis project is: Does the death of a parent in childhood affect the intimate relationships women form in adulthood?
The purpose of this thesis project was to answer the foregoing research question using literature search methods. Following...