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Loss-of-only-child family, Shidu parents, Mental and physical health, PTSD


Background: The term “loss-of-only-child family” means that the only child in a family passed away or is disabled due to an accident or other events. The parents who cannot conceive or do not adopt another child, are known as Shidu parents in China. This study compares the physical and mental health of Shidu parents with those parents who have not experienced such loss.

Methods: The target group is comprised of parents being Shidu for more than 1 year (N = 95) and the control group is comprised of parents with a living child (N = 97) from the same area as the Shidu parents. Socio-demographic information and physical health outcomes were collected by the adapted questionnaires. PCL-C (PTSD Checklist-Civilian Version), CES-D (Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale) and GHQ-12 (General Health Questionnaire) were applied to evaluate the parents’ physical and mental status.

Results: Shidu parents have a higher risk of developing PTSD and depression, and suffer more severe psychiatric disorders compared to parents with a living child. The rate of PTSD in the Shidu group was up to 32.6% and the scores of PCL-C are much higher than the control group. The physical status of Shidu parents were much worse than that of the control group, characterized by higher morbidity of chronic diseases and more hospital visits.

Conclusions: Shidu parents have more severe mental health problems and a higher rate of chronic diseases than parents who have a living child. Loss of the only child is the most traumatic event for the parents, which is a serious and unique problem in Chinese society that deserves attention. More studies and support are desired to improve the physical and mental health of Shidu parents.

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BMC Psychiatry, v. 18, art. 45