Objective: to gain an in-depth understanding of subsequent children’s experiences of being born into and raised in a family following an infant death.
Design: an exploratory qualitative study.
Setting: semi-structured interview in the participants’ homes. Data were collected over a five-month period in 2009 and analysed using thematic analysis.
Participants: a purposive sample of 10 subsequent children (five boys and five girls) was used. Children whose parents had accessed the support services offered by two bereavement support agencies were recruited. Participants were asked to describe their experiences of being a subsequent child. Interviews were conducted when the subsequent child was at least 13 years of age.
Findings: all participants spent time describing how they felt about being a subsequent child. They described how they had experienced life as a subsequent child, how they considered others felt about them (especially their mother), and finally how they felt about their deceased sibling.
Key conclusions and implications for practice: all participants in this study provided a picture of emotional well-being. They were aware of their family history, and all appreciated the grief and loss which their parents had suffered. However, they did not believe that this had impacted negatively on them; rather, most talked about positive effects including feeling loved and special because of the circumstances resulting in their birth. Even those who recognised that they may not have been born had their sibling lived accepted this and appeared to be emotionally secure and well adjusted. These findings suggest that intervention with bereaved parents at the time of the perinatal/infant death and soon after is beneficial to the experiences of the subsequent child. Further research to determine the nature and extent of this benefit is warranted.