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Sibling Loss During Throughout Development and Depression

Youth who experience a stressful life event, including the death of a sibling, are at increased risk of developing mental health disorders across the lifespan, including depression. Sibling death during development may be a uniquely difficult stressor with wide ranging impacts given the role siblings play in socioemotional development. Less is known about whether the stage of development that sibling death occurs in differentially predicts depressive symptoms in young adulthood. We first aimed to determine whether experiencing sibling death during development increases presence of depressive symptoms. We next aimed to determine if depressive symptoms in young adulthood differed depending on the developmental stage sibling death occurred in. We used data from Wave IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent and Adult Health (Add Health) Study. We compared bereaved participants (n=1,981) to nonbereaved participant (n=13,691) using an ANCOVA and logistic regression test. We further compared bereaved participants by which developmental stage they were in when they lost a sibling (before birth, early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood) using an ANCOVA. Results indicated that individuals who lost a sibling had higher depressive symptom levels than individuals who had not lost a sibling. However, there was not a significant difference of depressive symptom levels between individuals who lost a sibling at different stages of development. Data from this study suggests experiencing the loss of a sibling may increase an individual’s risk of experiencing elevated depressive symptoms but that an individual’s developmental stage at the time of sibling bereavement does not.