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Parent death

My MD thesis was called Parent Death and Mental Illness. It was begun in 1963 and awarded in 1966. Essentially, the case records of a consecutive series of psychiatric patients were examined and the age at which each parent died was recorded. The patient's clinical details were also recorded, and in particular a system was devised for grading the severity of depression. Parent death data for the local general population were obtained by a postal survey of the patients of a general practitioner. The thesis was published as Birtchnell, 1969a and b, and 1970a, b, c and d.

It later became possible to identify early bereaved patients on the North East of Scotland Psychiatric Case Register (located in Aberdeen) and to obtain another local control sample by a postal survey of the patients of a number of general practitioners. By this means, more detailed studies of early bereavement became possible, which took into consideration possible modifying variables such as birth position and social class (Birtchnell, 1971a and b, 1972a and b and 1975a and b).

A particularly interesting study was the use of the case-register data to test the hypothesis that people are more prone to develop psychiatric symptoms when their children reach the age that they were when the parent of the same sex died. I introduced the term age-correspondence reaction (ACR) to describe this phenomenon. Previously it had been erroneously termed an anniversary reaction. An anniversary reaction is an increased proneness to develop symptoms on the anniversary of a parent's death. Whereas an ACR can occur only once, an anniversary reaction can occur many times - that is each time the anniversary comes round.

In another, smaller study, I used a series of patients (at Graylingwell Hospital, Chichester) who had done a test of sexual identity to determine whether the death of a parent could affect subsequent sexual identity (Birtchnell, 1974).

 

References

Birtchnell, J. (1969a) The possible consequences of early parent death. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 42, 1‑12.

Birtchnell, J. (1969b) Parent death in relation to age and parental age at birth in psychiatric patients and general population controls. British Journal of Preventive and Social Medicine, 23, 244‑250.

Birtchnell, J. (1970a) Early parent death and mental illness. British Journal of Psychiatry, 116, 281‑288.

Birtchnell, J. (1970b) Recent parent death and mental illness. British Journal of Psychiatry, 116, 289‑297.

Birtchnell, J. (1970c) Depression in relation to early and recent parent death. British Journal of Psychiatry, 116, 299‑306.

Birtchnell, J. (1970d) The relationship between attempted suicide, depression and parent death. British Journal of Psychiatry, 116, 307‑313.

Birtchnell, J. (1971a) A case register study of bereavement. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 64, 279‑282.

Birtchnell, J. (1971b) Early parent death in relation to sibship size and composition in psychiatric patients and general population controls. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 47, 250‑270.

Birtchnell, J. (1972a) The interrelationship between social class, early parent death and mental illness. Psychological Medicine, 2, 166‑175.

Birtchnell, J. (1972b) Early parent death and psychiatric diagnosis. Social Psychiatry, 7, 202‑210.

Birtchnell, J. (1974) The effect of early parent loss upon the direction and degree of sexual identity. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 47, 129‑137.

Birtchnell, J. (1975a) Psychiatric breakdown following recent parent death. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 48, 379‑390.

Birtchnell, J. (1975b) The personality characteristics of early bereaved psychiatric patients. Social Psychiatry, 10, 97‑103.

Birtchnell, J. (1978) Early parent death and the clinical scales of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). British Journal of Psychiatry, 132, 574‑579.

Birtchnell, J. (1979) Some MMPI characteristics of psychiatric patients whose breakdown followed recent parent death. Social Psychiatry, 14, 181‑186.

Birtchnell, J. (1981) In search of correspondences between age at psychiatric breakdown and parental age at death ('anniversary reactions'). British Journal of Medical Psychology, 54, 111‑120.