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Bereavement and grief in adults with learning disabilities

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 January 2018

Sheila Hollins*
St George's Hospital Medical School
Alexander Esterhuyzen
St George's Hospital Medical School
Department of Psychiatry of Disability, St George's Hospital Medical School, Cranmer Terrace, London SWI7 0RE, Fax: 0181 672 1070; e-mail:



This paper reports the results of the first systematic study of the reaction of people with learning disabilities to bereavement.


A sample of 5O parent-bereaved people with learning disabilities was compared with a matched control group of 50 non-bereaved people. A semi-structured bereavement questionnaire was used along with the following instruments: the Aberrant Behaviour Checklist (ABC), the Psychopathology Instrument for Mentally Retarded Adults (PIMRA) and the Life Events Checklist.


Highly significant differences are demonstrated between bereaved and non-bereaved samples on both the total scores and most of the subscores of the ABC and PIMRA. Staff and carers did not usually attribute behaviour problems to the bereavement and its concomitant life events, nor was there a recognition of psychopathology due to bereavement.


The impact in terms of psychiatric and behavioural morbidity of loss of a parent, with its concomitant life events, in adults with learning disabilities has been underestimated.

Copyright © 1997 The Royal College of Psychiatrists 

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