The longitudinal association between symptoms of posttraumatic stress and complicated grief: A random intercepts cross-lag analysis.

Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy

Glad, K. A., Stensland, S., Czajkowski, N. O., Boelen, P. A., & Dyb, G.


Objective: Knowledge about the temporal relationship between disturbed grief and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have important implications for clinicians working with bereaved trauma survivors. We aimed to investigate the longitudinal association between symptoms of complicated grief and PTSD in a bereaved trauma-exposed sample.

Method: In total, 275 bereaved survivors (M age = 19.3, SD = 4.6 years; 47.3% females) of the 2011 massacre on Utøya Island, Norway, participated in semistructured interviews 4–5 months (Time 1 [T1]), 14–15 months (Time 2 [T2]), and 30–32 months (Time 3 [T3]) posttrauma. Complicated grief was measured using the Brief Grief Questionnaire, and posttraumatic stress reactions using the University of California at Los Angeles PTSD Reaction Index. To explore associations between symptoms of complicated grief and PTSD over time, we used a random intercepts cross-lagged panel model.

Results: The participants had lost a close friend (n = 256) and/or a family member/partner (n = 19) in the attack. We found a strong correlation between stable individual differences in symptoms of complicated grief and PTSD across the three time-points. PTSD symptoms at T2 predicted complicated grief reactions at T3, but not vice versa.

Conclusion: Findings suggest that targeting PTSD symptoms among trauma-exposed bereaved may hinder later development of complicated grief. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

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