Psychopathology Among Homicidally Bereaved Individuals: A Systematic Review

Mariëtte van Denderen, Jos de Keijser, Marco Kleen, Paul A. Boelen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In the literature on bereavement, claims are made that homicidal loss is associated with posttraumatic stress reactions, depression, and other severe mental health problems. It is surprising that only a few studies have investigated the nature and prevalence of emotional symptoms following homicidal bereavement and a reference to systematic, empirical research is seldom provided. This article reviews the available literature to investigate whether these claims have empirical evidence. Three databases were searched to identify relevant studies. This approach was supplemented with a bibliography search. Eligible studies included English-language peer-reviewed articles that assessed psychopathology in the homicidally bereaved, as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Of the 360 potentially relevant articles, 8 studies (13 references) met predefined inclusion criteria. Homicide-related psychopathology among the bereaved assessed in these studies includes posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, complicated grief, and substance abuse. Prevalence of lifetime homicide-related PTSD varied from 19.1% to 71% across studies. Current PTSD varied between 5.2% and 6%. The reviewed literature was inconclusive regarding the course of symptoms over time and the severity of psychopathology among the homicidally bereaved, compared to individuals bereaved by other causes of death. A comparison of the nature and prevalence of psychopathology between studies was complicated by unequal sample sizes and type, recruitment strategy, study design, and time since loss. Limitations of the included studies are discussed, as well as implications for clinical practice, policy, and future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-80
Number of pages11
JournalTrauma, Violence, and Abuse
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2015


  • bereaved
  • grief
  • homicide
  • murder
  • prevalence
  • review


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