ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2018, Vol. 50 ›› Issue (12): 1400-1412.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2018.01400

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Assessing the symptom structure, characteristics, and predictive factors of posttraumatic stress disorder among Shidu parents

SONG Chao1,LI Wanjun2,3,MENG Xiaohui1,XING Yilun1,FU Zhongfang1,WANG Jianping1()   

  1. 1 Beijing Key Laboratory of Applied Experimental Psychology; National Demonstration Center for Experimental Psychology Education <Beijing Normal University>; Faculty of Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China;
    2 Jiangsu Food & Pharmaceutical Science College, Huai’an 223003, China;
    3 Faculty of Education, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • Received:2018-04-04 Published:2018-12-25 Online:2018-10-30


The Chinese culture regards death as a taboo subject that is often avoided in daily conversations. Moreover, the death of a family member is a family affair that is inappropriate to share with others. Thus, the bereavement experience of the Chinese is a particularly mysterious territory that provides limited information. Among all types of bereavement, the death of a child is the most significant stressor that a parent could experience. In particular, an only child’s death is the ultimate trauma that any parent could ever encounter. However, China’s one-child policy, which has been implemented since the late 1970s, has the number of bereft parents who lost their only child to illness, accident, and other causes reaching millions. For shidu parents, the death of their only child may be the most significant source of traumatic stress, coupled with financial difficulties, thereby possibly leading to a state of stress and even severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therefore, research on PTSD symptoms in shidu parents is critical. This study attempts to analyze the symptom characteristics and predictive factors of PTSD in shidu parents.

The study investigated 463 shidu parents (mean age = 60.20 years, SD = 7.58) from March 2017 to December 2017 by using convenience sampling. The subjects completed the Parents Themselves and Their Children’s Basic Information Questionnaire and PTSD Checklist—Civilian Version (PCL-C). The survey results indicated that (1) the five-factor dysphoric arousal model entailing intrusion, avoidance, emotional numbing, dysphoric arousal, and anxious arousal was verified in the sample group of shidu parents. (2) The PTSD prevalence in the sample group was 71.9%. Among them, the incidence of PTSD, intrusion, avoidance, dysphoric arousal, emotional numbing, and anxious arousal increased. Repeated stress events; memory of past events (children), ideas, and the pain; and attempt to avoid stress factor (children’s death events) memory are the symptoms with the highest positive rates. (3) PTSD symptoms are significantly correlated with the duration of the loss and age of the shidu parents. Significant differences in PTSD symptoms were demonstrated in terms gender, home location, and family income status. The variables were incorporated into a regression equation and the three factors (i.e., gender, home location, and age) can be used to predict the PTSD symptoms.

This research has theoretical and practical significance. First, this research enriched the study of PTSD symptom structure by verifying Elhai’s five-factor dysphoric arousal model. Second, this study determined that the three main factors, namely, gender, home location, and age, can be used to predict PTSD symptoms. This finding is beneficial for scholars to study the mechanism for PTSD emergence and development. Lastly, this research will enable the development of effective intervention methods for Chinese shidu PTSD. In the process of psychosocially assisting shidu parents, patients with high risk of PTSD should be screened in five aspects: intrusion, avoidance, emotional numbing, dysphoric arousal, and anxious arousal, particularly intrusion and avoidance. Furthermore, shidu patients should be distinguished in terms of age, home location, and gender to be able to implement effective approaches to alleviate the symptoms of PTSD.

Key words: Shidu parents, posttraumatic stress disorder, symptom characteristics, predictive factors

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