Childhood Bereavement

in the United States


1 in 5 children will experience the death of someone close to them by age 18.


One out of every 20 children aged fifteen and younger will suffer the loss of one or both parents.

1.5 million children are living in a single-parent household because of the death of one parent. 


An estimated 1 in 14, or 5.2 million, children in the U.S. will experience the death of a parent or sibling before they reach the age of 18. By age 25, this number nearly triples to 13.2 million.



These statistics don’t account for the number of children who lose a “parental figure,” such as a grandparent or other relative that provides care. 

Children Playing Outdoor

Owens, D. “Recognizing the Needs of Bereaved Children in Palliative Care” Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing. 2008; 10:1)

  The Loss Of A Father


Children who experience unresolved childhood grief from the loss of a father are:


  • Five times more likely to commit suicide.

  • Nine times more likely to drop out of high school; and ten times more likely to engage in substance abuse. 

  The Effect of Unresolved Grief 


1 in 5 is likely to develop a psychiatric disorder; 


94% of young people in drug and alcohol rehabilitation 
programs have experienced the death of someone important; 


In a survey of 300 incarcerated teens, 96% indicated that someone significant in their lives had died


85% of all prisoners on death row experienced the death of a parents during their childhood


Grief In Schools

In a poll of 1,000 high school juniors and seniors, 90% indicated that they had experienced the death of a loved one.​

One in every 1,500 secondary school students dies each year.





Classroom teachers report that students

who have lost a parent or guardian

typically exhibit:


  • Difficulty concentrating in class (observed by 87% of teachers)

  • Withdrawal/disengagement and less class participation (observed by 82%)

  • Absenteeism (observed by 72%)

  • Decrease in quality of work (observed by 68%)

  • Less reliability in turning in assignments (observed by 66%)

  • 7 in 10 teachers (69%) currently have at least one student in their class(es) who has lost a parent, guardian, sibling, or close friend in the past year.