Investigating the role of physical activity following the death of a parent: the BABYSTEPS project
Subject Categories::L500 Social Work
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AbstractIn the United Kingdom, the number of dependent children and young people who experience the death of a parent is estimated at 41,000 per year. When a bereavement is experienced, grief occurs, with individuals experiencing a variety of outcomes at different severities. Experiencing bereavement at a young age can create unique grief outcomes. Current bereavement support services across the UK provide traditional support. This research aimed to investigate the potential therapeutic role of physical activity to grief outcomes in young people who have experienced parental bereavement. The BABYSTEPS project aimed to: 1)systematically review the literature within the field of physical activity and bereavement; 2) identify what current physical activity provisions are available to support young people who have been bereaved; 3) determine how grief impacts the lives of young people after parental bereavement; 4) understand the role of physical activity after parental bereavement; 5 ) identify what considerations should be made if a physical activity programme were developed to support grief outcomes in young people; 6) use findings to develop a physical activity intervention protocol to support young people who have experienced parental bereavement. Constructivist and pragmatic approaches were used, with mixed methods employed throughout. Qualitative studies used semi-structured interviews and observations and quantitative studies used online surveys to answer the research questions. A systematic review identified 25 studies showing that physical activity may be beneficial to grief outcomes, with only five focusing on young people following the death of a parent. A desk-based study found over 300 bereavement organisations within the UK, yet only 16.8% offered physical activity. Furthermore, 59 organisations were unsure of how many young people accessed their services. Interviews with young people (N=4) and adults (N=14) who had experienced parental bereavement as a young person, highlighted that grief has an emotional and physical impact with a sense that life will never be the same and experiences of re-grief. Physical activity provides an emotional outlet, social support, helps build confidence, provides a sense of freedom, and helps people to find themselves. Further evidence showed that physical activity programmes should provide activity options, be in an open space, consider reasons for being active, have no pressure to talk and provide social support. Using an online survey, 91.6% of respondents agreed that physical activity could benefit grief outcomes in young people after parental bereavement. An observation of a bereavement organisation providing an outdoor physical activity service created a safe, social, and trusting environment for young people after parental bereavement. This work extends research within the field of physical activity and parental bereavement in young people, highlighting a lack of bereavement organisations providing physical activity services and a sense from individuals who have been bereaved that physical activity could benefit grief outcomes. Key findings from the BABYSTEPS project have been used to develop a protocol for the ECLIPSE (Everyone Connected by Loss In Physical activity, Sport and Exercise) programme to provide an alternative to talking therapies for young people who do not want to access traditional bereavement support.
CitationWilliams, J. (2020) 'Investigating the Role of Physical Activity Following the Death of a Parent: The BABYSTEPS Project'. PhD thesis. University of Bedfordshire.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted to the University of Bedfordshire, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
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