Self-reported psychopathology and risk-taking behaviors among parentally bereaved adolescents

Michael James Perlotto, Pace University


The research concerning adolescents who have experienced the death of a parent due to AIDS is limited. The purpose of this study was to examine if status of parental death was associated with self-reported psychopathology, risk-taking behaviors and academic success in adolescents. The sample for this study was comprised of 68 adolescents between 12.0 and 18.0 years of age who were residing within a residential treatment center. The participants were divided into three groups: (1) bereaved adolescents who had experienced the death of a parent due to AIDS; (2) bereaved adolescents who experienced the death of a parent due to other causes; or (3) adolescents who had not experienced the death of a parent. The adolescents completed the Youth Self Report Scale and the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. In addition, demographic information including time since parental death, number of foster care placements, and parent drug history was obtained from preexisting records. It was anticipated that parentally bereaved adolescents due to AIDS would: (1) score significantly higher on the Youth Self Report subscales of anxious/depressed, withdrawn, and social problems; (2) report higher incidences of risk-taking behavior on the Youth Risk Behavior Survey; and (3) demonstrate less academic success. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the sample. Oneway Analysis of Variance and Chi-Square statistical procedures were used to examine the research questions. No significant differences were found when the three groups were compared on self-reported psychopathology and risk-taking behaviors. The research question pertaining to academic success could not be tested due to lack of standardized test scores in the adolescents' school records. Overall, the adolescents who participated in this study reported a high degree of risk-taking behavior such as engaging in sexual intercourse at a young age, having multiple sexual partners, and engaging in physical aggression towards peers. In addition, a large percentage of participants reported chronic feelings of sadness, as well as suicidal ideation and actual attempts at suicide. Implications for school/child clinical psychologists working with adolescent youth and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Behaviorial sciences

Recommended Citation

Perlotto, Michael James, "Self-reported psychopathology and risk-taking behaviors among parentally bereaved adolescents" (2001). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3011868.



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