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Adolescent response to parental death from AIDS: The role of social support

Diane Huebner Dillon, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Death due to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a particularly difficult loss to cope with because of the stigma surrounding the disease (Nelkin, Willis, & Parris, 1991). Adolescents who are faced with the death of a parent to AIDS are likely to be dealing with an aura of secrecy which hinders their opportunities to receive social support and their abilities to cope with their loss (Nagler, Adnopoz, & Forsyth, 1995). A study was conducted to investigate the relationship between social support and depression levels, living situations, number of coping strategies, gender, and whether a teen reported their parent's cause of death as AIDS. Participants included 15 males and 5 females, between the ages of 11 and 17 years, who had one or both parents die from AIDS. Interviews were conducted and data was collected on the following variables: the total number of people who provided informational and emotional support; the reported satisfaction as a total amount as well as an overall average rating of the satisfaction with the information; the reported dependability as a total amount as well as an overall average rating of the dependability of the emotional support; a depression score: the teen's living situation; the total number of coping strategies utilized; and the frequency of the reported cause of death as AIDS. Results indicate that higher amounts of support are related to greater numbers of coping strategies, and a greater likelihood of reporting a parent's cause of death as AIDS. In addition, female adolescents reported a greater number of coping strategies than male adolescents. Depression was not found to correlate with measures of informational or emotional support. Whether a teen resided in a residential treatment facility or in a home with relatives or a foster family was not correlated with depression levels, informational or emotional support, or number of coping strategies.

Subject Area

Academic guidance counseling|Secondary education|Psychotherapy|Social work|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Dillon, Diane Huebner, "Adolescent response to parental death from AIDS: The role of social support" (1996). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9709589.