Adolescents Who Are Bereft: A Qualitative Phenomenological Study

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Losing a parent as a child or adolescent is difficult. The loss can have a substantial impact on the youth’s future. The problem is students who are bereft in public schools in the United States often go unidentified by educators, which can impact academic performance and behaviors. A review of the literature revealed a gap in studies focused on identification systems or programs to facilitate advocacy for students who are bereft. Students who are bereft have unique needs. A child or adolescent who receives no professional help to manage grief has the propensity to quell grief through unhealthy lifestyle choices. There is a need to identify children and adolescents who are bereft as soon as possible to provide nurturing support to avoid short- and long-term consequences of unresolved grief. The purpose of the qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the academic performance and behavior experiences of students who are bereft in grades 7-12 from a semiurban junior / senior high school in the northeastern United States through the perceptions of their educators. The theoretical framework of the study was shaped by theory of change and situational leadership theory. The research questions were centered on educators’ perceptions of how the death of a parent affects a student’s academic performance and behavior. Two data collection tools—semistructured interviews and a focus group—were used to explore the perceptions of educators from different capacities in the public school setting. Findings showed educators unanimously agreed a formal identification system would benefit parentally bereft students’ academic performance and behavior. Not knowing of a student who has lost a parent often results in an educator having a negative experience, academically or behaviorally, with a student who is bereft.
Situational Leadership Theory, Theory of Change