Toward a Better Understanding of Psychological Symptoms in People Confronted With the Disappearance of a Loved One : A Systematic Review

The disappearance of a loved one is claimed to be the most stressful type of loss. The present review explores the empirical evidence relating to this claim. Specifically, it summarizes studies exploring the prevalence and correlates of psychological symptoms in relatives of missing persons as well as studies comparing levels of psychopathology in relatives of the disappeared and the deceased.
Two independent reviewers performed a systematic search in PsychINFO, Web of Science, and Medline, which resulted in 15 studies meeting predefined inclusion criteria. Eligible studies included quantitative peer-reviewed articles and dissertations that assessed psychopathology in relatives of missing person.
All reviewed studies were focused on disappearances due to war or state terrorism. Prevalence rates of psychopathology were mainly described in terms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and varied considerably among the studies. Number of experienced traumatic events and kinship to the missing person were identified as correlates of psychopathology. Comparative studies showed that psychopathology levels did not differ between relatives of missing and deceased persons.
The small number of studies and the heterogeneity of the studies limit the understanding of psychopathology in those left behind. More knowledge about psychopathology postdisappearance could be gained by expanding the focus of research beyond disappearances due to war or state terrorism.

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Lonneke I. M. Lenferink, Jos de Keijser, Ineke Wessel, Doety de Vries, and Paul A. Boelen | 2019
In: Trauma, Violence & Abuse ISSN‎: ‎1524-8380 | 20 | 3 | 287-302
Bereavement, Depressive Symptoms, Literature Review, Psychosocial support, Psychotrauma, Stressors, Systematic Review
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