Evidence-Based Programs

Family Bereavement Program

The ASU Family Bereavement Program (FBP) is a 12-session program designed to promote effective parenting and teach useful coping skills following the death of a parent or caregiver. The program teaches skills that help the surviving parent or caregiver to create positive and warm relationships, use positive communication with children, employ effective discipline, reduce the surviving parent’s/caretaker’s depression, and teach children and adolescents complimentary skills that help maintain effective communication and use positive coping strategies to manage the many stressors that often follow the death of a parent. The program focuses on effective parenting because research has shown that the quality of parenting by the surviving parent/caregiver is one of the most powerful resources for helping children adjust positively to the death of a parent.

Evidence for the efficacy of the ASU Family Bereavement Program (FBP)

The ASU FBP is the most extensively evaluated program in the literature for families who have experienced the death of a parent and has found extensive evidence of its positive effects on both the children/adolescents and their bereaved parent. The FBP has been rigorously evaluated in a randomized experimental trial including evaluation of program effects at one and six year follow-ups. This trial involved 156 families that participated in the program when the children were 8-18 years of age and 244 children and youth. The results showed that both the children and the parents who participated in the FBP had significantly better adjustment up to six years following the program as compared to those in the comparison group.There were multiple positive benefits of the program six years following participation. The program strengthened positive parenting practices and reduced parent/caregiver depression, alcoholism, and persistent complex bereavement symptoms. For the adolescents and young adults, the program reduced levels of distressing and intrusive grief thoughts, reduced levels of internalizing and externalizing problems, decreased likelihood of a diagnosis of externalizing disorder, and reduced dysregulation of biological stress responses. Importantly, many of the program effects to improve child and adolescent outcomes were found to be due to changes in parenting practices that occurred during the program.

Current Research

The ASU FBP is currently beginning a 24-year follow-up on the families that participated in the experimental trial of the program. This evaluation will address the following questions:

  1. Whether young adults who participated in the FBP show significantly better mental health outcomes, fewer physical health and health risk behaviors (e.g., smoking, substance use, risky sexual behaviors), and greater accomplishment of developmentally appropriate educational, vocational, and relationship goals (e.g., education occupation, romantic relationships, peer relationships) relative to those who participated in the comparison condition.
  2. Whether surviving parents/caregivers who participated in the FBP show fewer mental health problems relative to those who participated in the comparison condition.
  3. Discover if there are improvements in the emotion regulation skills (e.g., attentional control, active coping) of the young adults as assessed through self-report questionnaires, daily diaries, and responses to “real-time” challenge tasks.
  4. Test whether any program-induced changes in positive parenting account for other program benefits.
  5. Conduct an analysis of the economic cost-benefit of the FBP due to reductions in use of other services by the families during the fifteen years following program participation.

Investigators: Irwin Sandler, Tim Ayers, Sharlene Wolchik, Jenn-Yun Tein, Linda Leucken, Michelle Shiota, Sanford Braver, Roger Millsap, Nancy Gonzales.

Grants

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NIMH 1 R01 MH49155-06 Impact of the Family Bereavement Program Fifteen Years Later.

Co-Principal Investigators: I.N. Sandler, T.S. Ayers, Co-Investigators: S.A. Wolchik, J-Y. Tein, L. Leucken, and M. Shiota 2010-2015.

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NIMH P30 MH068685-01A2 ASU Prevention Research Center for Families in Stress.

Principal Investigator: I.N. Sandler, Co-Investigators: T.S. Ayers, S. Braver, R. Millsap, J-Y. Tein, S.A. Wolchik, and N. Gonzales, 2005-2010.

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NIMH 1 R01 MH49155-06 Six-Year Follow-up of a Prevention Program for Bereaved Families.

Principal Investigator I.N. Sandler, Co-Investigators: T.S. Ayers, L. Leucken, J-Y. Tein, S.A. Wolchik, and N. Gonzales 2001-2006.

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NIMH 1 RO1 Child Bereavement Program.

Principal Investigator: I.N. Sandler, Co-Investigators: S.A. Wolchik, and J-Y. Tein. 1994-1999.

Publications

  • Luecken, L. J., Hagan, M. J., Sandler, I. N., Tein, J.-Y., Ayers, T. S., & Wolchik, S. A. (2014). Longitudinal mediators of a randomized prevention program effect on cortisol for youth from parentally bereaved families. Prevention Science, 15(2), 224-232. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11121-013-0385-7
  • Ayers, T. S., Wolchik, S. A., Sandler, I. N., Twohey, J. L., Weyer, J. L., Padgett-Jones, S., Weiss, L.  Cole, E. & Kriege, G. (2014). The Family Bereavement Program: description of a theory-based prevention program for parentally-bereaved children and adolescents. Omega, 68(4), 293-314.
  • Sandler, I. N., Wolchik, S. A., Ayers, T. S., Tein, J. Y. & Luecken, L. (2013). Family Bereavement Program (FBP)  approach to promoting resilience following the death of a parent. Family Science, 4, 2013. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19424620.2013.821763
  • Schoenfelder, E. N., Sandler, I. N., Millsap, R. E., Wolchik, S. A., Berkel, C., & Ayers, T. S. (2013). Caregiver responsiveness to the family bereavement program: What predicts responsiveness? What does responsiveness predict? Prevention Science. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11121-012-0337-7
  • Luecken, L. J., Hagan, M. J., Sandler, I. N., Tein, J.-Y., Ayers, T. S., & Wolchik, S. A. (2013). Longitudinal mediators of a randomized prevention program effect on cortisol for youth from parentally bereaved families. Prevention Science. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11121-013-0385-7
  • Hagan, M. J., Tein, J.-Y., Sandler, I. N., Wolchik, S. A., Ayers, T. S., & Luecken, L. J. (2012). Strengthening effective parenting practices over the long term: Effects of a preventive intervention for parentally bereaved families. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 41(2), 177-188. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2012.651996
  • Schoenfelder, E. N., Sandler, I. N., Wolchik, S., & MacKinnon, D. (2011). Quality of social relationships and the development of depression in parentally-bereaved youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40(1), 85-96. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10964-009-9503-z
  • Ayers, T. S., Kondo, C. C., & Sandler, I. N. (2011). Bridging the gap: Translating a research-based program into an agency-based service for bereaved children and families Grief and bereavement in contemporary society: Bridging research and practice. (pp. 117-135): Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, New York, NY.
  • Sandler, I. N., Ma, Y., Tein, J.-Y., Ayers, T. S., Wolchik, S., Kennedy, C., & Millsap, R. (2010). Long-term effects of the family bereavement program on multiple indicators of grief in parentally bereaved children and adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(2), 131-143. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0018393
  • Sandler, I., Ayers, T. S., Tein, J.-Y., Wolchik, S., Millsap, R., Khoo, S. T., . . . Coxe, S. (2010). Six-year follow-up of a preventive intervention for parentally bereaved youths: a randomized controlled trial. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine, 164(10), 907-914. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/archpediatrics.2010.173
  • Luecken, L. J., Hagan, M. J., Sandler, I. N., Tein, J.-Y., Ayers, T. S., & Wolchik, S. A. (2010). Cortisol levels six-years after participation in the Family Bereavement Program. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 35(5), 785-789. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2009.11.002
  • Wolchik, S. A., Coxe, S., Tein, J. Y., Sandler, I. N., & Ayers, T. S. (2009). Six-year longitudinal predictors of posttraumatic growth in parentally bereaved adolescents and young adults. Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, 58(2), 107-128. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/OM.58.2.b
  • Wolchik, S. A., Ma, Y., Tein, J.-Y., Sandler, I. N., & Ayers, T. S. (2008). Parentally bereaved children's grief: Self-system beliefs as mediators of the relations between grief and stressors and caregiver-child relationship quality. Death Studies, 32(7), 597-620. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07481180802215551
  • Sandler, I. N., Wolchick, S. A., Ayers, T. S., Tein, J. Y., Coxe, S., & Chow, W. (2008). Linking theory and intervention to promote resilience in parentally bereaved children. In M. Stroebe & W. Stroebe (Eds.), Handbook of Bereavement Research and Practice: Advances in Theory and Intervention (pp. 531-551). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Haine, R. A., Ayers, T. S., Sandler, I. N., & Wolchik, S. A. (2008). Evidence-based practices for parentally bereaved children and their families. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 39(2), 113-121. doi: 10.1037/0735-7028.39.2.113
  • Foster, E., Porter, M. M., Ayers, T. S., Kaplan, D. L., & Sandler, I. (2007). Estimating the Costs of Preventive Interventions. Evaluation Review, 31(3), 261-286. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0193841X07299247
  • Wolchik, S. A., Tein, J.-Y., Sandler, I. N., & Ayers, T. S. (2006). Stressors, quality of the child-caregiver relationship, and children's mental health problems after parental death: The mediating role of self-system beliefs. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 34(2), 221-238.
  • Tein, J.-Y., Sandler, I. N., Ayers, T. S., & Wolchik, S. A. (2006). Mediation of the effects of the Family Bereavement Program on mental health problems of bereaved children and adolescents. Prevention Science, 7(2), 179-195.
  • Schmiege, S. J., Khoo, S. T., Sandler, I. N., Ayers, T. S., & Wolchick, S. A. (2006). Symptoms of internalizing and externalizing problems: Modeling recovery curves after the death of a parent. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 31(6 Suppl 1), S152-160.
  • Haine, R. A., Wolchik, S. A., Sandler, I. N., Millsap, R. E., & Ayers, T. S. (2006). Positive parenting as a protective resource for parentally bereaved children. Death Studies, 30(1), 1-28.
  • Sandler, I., Kennedy, C., Balk, D., Jordan, J., Nadeau, J., & Shapiro, E. (2005). Bridging the Gap between Research and Practice in Bereavement: Report from the Center for the Advancement of Health. Death Studies, 29(2), 93-122.
  • Kwok, O.-M., Haine, R. A., Sandler, I. N., Ayers, T. S., Wolchik, S. A., & Tein, J.-Y. (2005). Positive Parenting as a Mediator of the Relations Between Parental Psychological Distress and Mental Health Problems of Parentally Bereaved Children. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 34(2), 260-271.
  • Lin, K. K., Sandler, I. N., Ayers, T. S., Wolchik, S. A., & Luecken, L. J. (2004). Resilience in parentally bereaved children and adolescents seeking preventive services. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 33(4), 673-683. doi: 10.1207/s15374424jccp3304_3
  • Sandler, I. N., Ayers, T. S., Wolchik, S. A., Tein, J. Y., Kwok, O. M., Haine, R. A., . . . Griffin, W. A. (2003). The Family Bereavement Program: Efficacy evaluation of a theory-based prevention program for parentally bereaved children and adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71(3), 587-600.
  • Ayers, T. S., Kennedy, C. L., Sandler, I. N., & Stokes, J. (2003). Bereavement, Adolescence. In M. Bloom & T. P. Gullotta (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Primary Prevention and Health Promotion (pp. 221-229). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.
  • Sandler, I. N., Ayers, T. S., & Romer, A. L. (2002). Fostering resilience in families in which a parent has died. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 5(6), 945-956. doi: 10.1089/10966210260499195
  • West, S. G., Sandler, I., Pillow, D. R., Baca, L., & Gersten, J. C. (1991). The use of structural equation modeling in generative research: Toward the design of a preventive intervention for bereaved children. Special Issue: Preventive Intervention Research Centers. American Journal of Community Psychology, 19(4), 459-480.