Chapter 9. A Grief Group for Today’s Teens: Using Human-Centered Design to Develop an Evidence-Based Intervention for Teens That Have Lost a Parent


Julia Chavez1, BA, Jessica Cheng1, BA, Amelie Liu2, HSD, Alexis Hansen3, SWLC, Jesse Boring3, PhD, Irwin Sandler5,6, PhD, and Dana Suskind7, MD
1Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
2University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
3Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
4Psychology and Human Services Department, SUNY Broome Community College, Binghamton, New York
5REACH Institute, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona
6Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona
7Department of Surgery, University of Chicago Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America

Part of the book: Environmental Health: Poverty, Race and Child Health in the Time of COVID-19

Chapter DOI:


Parent loss during childhood is a profoundly stressful life event affecting one in 25 individuals in the United States. Early parent loss places children at risk for both short- and long-term negative health and life outcomes, including mental health issues (e.g., depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder) and lower academic success. Given the potential negative sequelae across the lifespan, timely intervention is critical. In this study, we used human-centered design (HCD) to develop an evidence-based intervention for teens who have lost a parent, using the Family Bereavement Program (FBP) as a model. A new peer-led delivery model was introduced to the curriculum, as well as the incorporation of technology and mindfulness strategies. We recruited researchers and members of the target population to provide feedback on the curriculum in focus groups. The results of focus group testing indicated that there are theory-practice gaps within post-bereavement interventions that can be identified and redressed through human[1]centered design framework. The focus group feedback provided preliminary support for the peer-led curriculum for parentally-bereaved teens as well as suggestions for adaptation and modifications. Future work will be centered around further refining the model ensuring fidelity and scalability of the intervention.


[1] Sherer Z. Parental mortality is linked to a variety of socio-economic and
demographic factors. URL:
[2] Burns M, Griese B, King S, Tami A. Childhood bereavement: Understanding
prevalence and related adversity in the United States. Am J Orthopsychiatry 2020;90:391-405.
[3] Felitti VJ, Anda RF, Nordenberg D, Williamson DF, Spitz AM, Edwards V, Koss
MP, J S Marks JS. Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to
many of the leading causes of death in adults: the adverse childhood experiences
(ACE) study. Am J Prev Med 1998;14:245–58.
[4] Wolchik SA, Sandler IN. Handbook of children’s coping with common life
stressors. New York: Plenum, 1997.
[5] Nickerson A, Bryant RA, Aderka IM. The impacts of parental loss and adverse
parenting on mental health: Findings from the national comorbidity surveyreplication. Psychol Trauma 2013;5:119–27.
[6] Umberson D, Olson JS, Crosnoe R, Liu H, Pudrovska T, Donnelly R. Death of
family members as an overlooked source of racial disadvantage in the United States.
Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2017;114:915–20.
[7] Hillis SD, Blenkinsop A, Villaveces, A, Annor FB, Liburd L, Massetti GM,
Demissie Z, Mercy JA, Nelson III, CA, Cluver L, Flaxman S, Sherr L, Donnelly
CA, Ratmann O, & Unwin, HJT. COVID-19–associated orphanhood and caregiver
death in the United States. Pediatrics 2021;148:21-43.
[8] Currier JM, Neimeyer RA, Berman JS. The effectiveness of psychotherapeutic
interventions for bereaved persons: A comprehensive quantitative review. Psychol Bull 2008;134:648–61.
[9] Sandler I, Gunn H, Mazza G, Tein JY, Wolchik S, Kim H, Ayers T, Porter M. Three
perspectives on mental health problems of young adults and their parents at a 15-
year follow-up of the family bereavement program. J Consult Clin Psychol 2018;86:845–55.
[10] Sandler I, Tein J-Y, Cham H. Long-term effects of the family bereavement program
(FBP) on spousally-bereaved parents: grief, mental health, alcohol problems, and
coping efficacy. Dev Psychopathol 2016;28:801–18.
[11] Anderson M, Jiang JJ. Teens, social media and technology 2018. Pew Research
Center. URL:
[12] Ziebland S, Wyke S. Health and illness in a connected world: How might sharing
experiences on the internet affect people’s health? Does sharing on the internet affect
people’s health? Milbank Q 2012;90:219–49.
[13] van Uden-Kraan CF, Drossaert CHC, Taal E, Shaw BR, Seydel ER, van de Laar
MAFJ. Empowering processes and outcomes of participation in online support
groups for patients with breast cancer, arthritis, or fibromyalgia. Qual Health Res 2008;18:405–17.
[14] Courtois CA, Gold SN. The need for inclusion of psychological trauma in the
professional curriculum: A call to action. Psychol Trauma 2009;1:3.
[15] Ortiz R, Sibinga EM. The role of mindfulness in reducing the adverse effects of
childhood stress and rrauma. Children (Basel) 2017;4:16.
[16] Lyon AR, Koerner K. User-centered design for psychosocial intervention
development and implementation. Clin Psychol (New York) 2016;23:180–200.
[17] Lyon AR, Brewer SK, Areán PA. Leveraging human-centered design to implement
modern psychological science: Return on an early investment. Am Psychol 2020;75:1067–79.
[18] Ayers TS, Wolchik SA, Sandler IN, Twohey JL, Weyer JL, Padgett-Jones S, Weiss
L, Cole E, and Gary Kriege G. The family bereavement program: description of a
theory-based prevention program for parentally-bereaved children and adolescents.
Omega (Westport) 2013;68:293–314.
[19] Sandler IN, Ayers TS, Wolchik SA, Tein JY, Kwok OM, Haine RA, Twohey-Jacobs
J, Suter J, Lin K, Padgett-Jones S, Weyer JL, Cole E, Kriege G, Griffin WA. The
family bereavement program: efficacy evaluation of a theory-based prevention
program for parentally bereaved children and adolescents. J Consult Clin Psychol 2003;71:587–600.
[20] Keng SL, Smoski MJ, Robins CJ. Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a
review of empirical studies. Clin Psychol Rev 2011;31:1041–56.
[21] Zhang Q, Wang Z, Wang X, Liu L, Zhang J, Zhou RL. The effects of different stages
of mindfulness meditation training on emotion regulation. Front Hum Neurosci 2019;13:208.
[22] Chinoda S, Mutsinze A, Simms V, Chauke RB, Verhey R, Robinson J, Barker T,
Mugurungi O, Apollo T, Munetsi E, Sithole D, Weiss HA, Chibanda D and Nicola
Willis N.. Effectiveness of a peer-led adolescent mental health intervention on HIV
virological suppression and mental health in Zimbabwe: Protocol of a clusterrandomised trial. Glob Ment Health (Camb) 2020;7:e23.
[23] Stice E, Rohde P, Shaw H, Gau JM. Clinician-led, peer-led, and internet-delivered
dissonance-based eating disorder prevention programs: Effectiveness of these
delivery modalities through 4-year follow-up. J Consult Clin Psychol 2020;88:481–94.
[24] Patalay P, Annis J, Sharpe H, Newman R, Main D, Ragunathan T, Parkes M, Clarke
K. A pre-post evaluation of OpenMinds: a sustainable, peer-led mental health
literacy programme in universities and secondary schools. Prev Sci 2017;18:995–1005.
[25] Sandler IN, Wolchik SA, Ayers TS, Tein JY, Luecken L. Family bereavement
[rogram (FBP) approach to promoting resilience following the death of a parent.
Fam Sci 2013;4:87-94


Publish with Nova Science Publishers

We publish over 800 titles annually by leading researchers from around the world. Submit a Book Proposal Now!