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Long-term impact of childhood bereavement

Preliminary analysis of the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70)

This preliminary analysis of data from the 1970 British Cohort Study was undertaken by the Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre as part of the ‘fast response’ programme of work to inform policy development.

Using longitudinal data from the 1970 British Cohort Study, this analysis suggests there may be a few longer-term effects from childhood bereavement. There are some
correlations of bereavement with a range of disadvantages in adult life. However, much of the initial statistical association between growing up in a bereaved family
and having poorer adult outcomes at age 30 than children from intact families was found to be related to pre-existing differences in characteristics of their families of
origin. Children experiencing other forms of family disruption may suffer more extensive influences on their ability to negotiate a successful transition to adult life.

After controlling for family background characteristics from the time of birth, childhood bereavement was found to be associated with men being less likely to be
employed at age 30. For women, experiencing bereavement in childhood compared with growing up in an intact family, was found to be associated, at the margins of
significance, with a range of disadvantages; failing to gain any sort of qualification, being less likely to be employed at age 30, reporting symptoms associated with
depression and with smoking cigarettes.