Grief and delivering a statement in court: a longitudinal mixed-method study among homicidally bereaved people

Lieke Nijborg*, Maarten J.J. Kunst, Gerben J. Westerhof, Jos de Keijser, Lonneke Lenferink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Background: Participating in a criminal trial may increase the likelihood of developing
psychopathology. In 2021, people bereaved by a plane disaster (flight MH17) had the
opportunity to deliver a victim personal statement (VPS) in Dutch court.
Objective: This longitudinal mixed-method study examined different aspects of 84 bereaved
people’s experiences with VPS delivery.
Method: Motivations to deliver, or not deliver, an oral VPS were examined qualitatively using
thematic content analysis. Whether background and loss-related variables were related to the
decision to deliver a VPS was examined using binary logistic regression analyses. Betweengroup
(delivered VPS vs. did not) and within-group (pre- vs. post-VPS) comparisons were
made regarding prolonged grief disorder (PGD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and
depression levels using t-tests and paired t-tests.
Results: Bereaved people were most frequently motivated to deliver an oral VPS to describe
the impact of the incident, while those who did not deliver an oral VPS commonly wanted
to protect themselves from the perceived emotional burden. None of the correlates – i.e.
biological sex, age, level of education, number of losses, and (closest) relationship to the
deceased – were related to the decision to deliver a VPS. Lastly, significantly higher PGD,
PTSD, and depression levels were reported by people who delivered a VPS than those who
did not, before and after the court hearing. No significant within-group differences were
found over time.
Conclusions: Professionals may provide emotional support to bereaved people who want to
deliver a VPS and manage their expectations if they want to deliver a VPS for the purpose of
symptom reduction. Future research may benefit from examining other ways in which VPS
delivery might have beneficial or detrimental effects for specific individuals. Overall,
implementing VPS delivery in court on the basis of emotional restoration remains
empirically unsupported, if defined as a reduction in psychopathological levels.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2297541
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of psychotraumatology
Volume15
Issue number1
Early online date29 Jan 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Keywords

  • Prolonged grief
  • Posttraumatic stress
  • Depression
  • Victim impact statement
  • Bereavement
  • Trauma
  • Homicide
  • Motivation

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