Grief and delivering a statement in court: a longitudinal mixed-method study among homicidally bereaved people

Lieke C.J. Nijborg*, Maarten J.J. Kunst, Gerben J. Westerhof, Jos de Keijser, Lonneke I.M. Lenferink

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review

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Background: Participating in a criminal trial may increase the likelihood of developing psychopathology. In 2021, people bereaved by a plane disaster (flight MH17) had the opportunity to deliver a victim personal statement (VPS) in Dutch court. Objective: This longitudinal mixed-method study examined different aspects of 84 bereaved people’s experiences with VPS delivery. Method: Motivations to deliver, or not deliver, an oral VPS were examined qualitatively using thematic content analysis. Whether background and loss-related variables were related to the decision to deliver a VPS was examined using binary logistic regression analyses. Between-group (delivered VPS vs. did not) and within-group (pre- vs. post-VPS) comparisons were made regarding prolonged grief disorder (PGD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression levels using t-tests and paired t-tests. Results: Bereaved people were most frequently motivated to deliver an oral VPS to describe the impact of the incident, while those who did not deliver an oral VPS commonly wanted to protect themselves from the perceived emotional burden. None of the correlates–i.e. biological sex, age, level of education, number of losses, and (closest) relationship to the deceased–were related to the decision to deliver a VPS. Lastly, significantly higher PGD, PTSD, and depression levels were reported by people who delivered a VPS than those who did not, before and after the court hearing. No significant within-group differences were found over time. Conclusions: Professionals may provide emotional support to bereaved people who want to deliver a VPS and manage their expectations if they want to deliver a VPS for the purpose of symptom reduction. Future research may benefit from examining other ways in which VPS delivery might have beneficial or detrimental effects for specific individuals. Overall, implementing VPS delivery in court on the basis of emotional restoration remains empirically unsupported, if defined as a reduction in psychopathological levels.

Originele taal-2English
Aantal pagina's14
TijdschriftEuropean Journal of Psychotraumatology
Nummer van het tijdschrift1
StatusPublished - 2024

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