The toll of traumatic loss in African Americans bereaved by homicide


We investigated the psychological impact of homicide bereavement in a sample of 54 African Americans (88.9% female) who had experienced the murder of a loved one within the past 5 years. Participants were recruited from a victims' services agency. The majority of participants (n = 34, 63%) were parents of the deceased. Using a cutoff of 50 on the PTSD Checklist (Weathers, Litz, Herman, Huska, & Keane, 1993), 10 participants (18.5%) screened positive for PTSD. On the Beck Depression Inventory - II, 54% of the sample (n = 29) had scores suggesting at least mild depression. On the Inventory of Complicated Grief (Prigerson & Jacobs, 2001), 24 (54.5%) of those for whom the homicide occurred 6 months or more prior to assessment screened positive for complicated grief. There was a high degree of overlap across these categories, with nearly all of the PTSD-positive cases screening positive for complicated grief and depression. Participants who were within 2 years of a homicide loss showed significantly higher levels of PTSD and anxiety severities than those who were 2 or more years beyond the loss. In contrast, levels of complicated grief and depression did not differ significantly between those early and late in bereavement. In regression analyses, time since the homicide was a significant predictor for anxiety and approached significance in predicting PTSD. However, time since homicide was not significantly associated with depression or complicated grief. Clinical and research implications of these findings are discussed, including the possible impact of stigma associated with homicidal bereavement. © 2011 American Psychological Association.

Publication Title

Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy