BACKGROUND: Traumatic loss (e.g., homicide) is associated with elevated prolonged grief disorder (PGD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Several studies comparing relatives of missing persons with homicidally bereaved individuals showed inconsistent results about the difference in PGD- and PTSD-levels between the groups. These studies were conducted in the context of armed conflict, which may confound the results. The current study aims to compare PGD- and PTSD-levels between the groups outside the context of armed conflict.
METHODS: Relatives of long-term missing persons (n=134) and homicidally bereaved individuals (n=331) completed self-report measures of PGD and PTSD. Multilevel regression modelling was used to compare symptom scores between the groups.
RESULTS: Homicidally bereaved individuals reported significantly higher levels of PGD (d=0.86) and PTSD (d=0.28) than relatives of missing persons, when taking relevant covariates (i.e., gender, time since loss, and kinship to the disappeared/deceased person) into account.
LIMITATIONS: A limitation of this study is the use of self-report measures instead of clinical interviews.
CONCLUSION: Prior studies among relatives of missing persons and homicidally bereaved individuals in the context of armed conflict may not be generalizable to similar samples outside these contexts. Future research is needed to further explore differences in bereavement-related psychopathology between different groups and correlates and treatment of this psychopathology.