Sex differences and moderation in PTSD, attachment, coping, and social support
Objective: Parents bereaved by infant death experience a wide range of symptomatology, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that may persist for years after the loss. Little research has been conducted on PTSD in fathers who have lost an infant. Mothers report most symptoms to a greater extent than fathers, but not much is known about other sex differences following infant death. Method: The present cross-sectional study examined sex differences in PTSD and sex differences in the relationship between PTSD severity and related variables. Subjects were 361 mothers and 273 fathers who had lost an infant either late in pregnancy, during birth or in the first year of life. Participants filled out questionnaires between 1.2 months and 18 years after the loss (M=3.4 years). Results: Mothers reported significantly more PTSD symptoms, attachment anxiety, emotion-focused coping and feeling let down, but significantly lower levels of attachment avoidance than fathers. Attachment anxiety, attachment avoidance and emotion-focused coping were significantly more strongly associated with PTSD severity in mothers than fathers, but only when examined alone. When all variables and time since the loss were examined together, there were no longer any significant moderation effects of sex. Conclusions: Persistent posttraumatic symptomatology exists in both mothers and fathers long after the loss. There are several sex differences in severity and correlates of PTSD, and a few moderation effects were identified for attachment and emotion-focused coping. Overall, more similarities than differences were found between mothers and fathers in the associations between PTSD and covariates. (C) 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
General Hospital Psychiatry, 2014, Vol 36, Issue 6, p. 655-661