Global Estimates of Maternal Bereavement: New Indicators of the Cumulative Prevalence of Child Loss in 168 Countries and Territories
Emily Smith-Greenaway1, Diego Alburez-Gutierrez2, Jenny Trinitapoli3, Emilio Zagheni2
1University of Southern California, 2Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, 3University of Chicago

Social epidemiologists have established the negative health consequences of parental bereavement; yet we lack a standardized approach for estimating the prevalence of bereaved parents. We generate indicators of the cumulative prevalence of mothers who have had an infant, under-five-year-old, or any-age child ever die by using publicly available survey data, and a novel, indirect approach that combines formal kinship models and life table method. We label these measures the maternal cumulative prevalence of infant mortality (mIM), under-five mortality (mU5M), and offspring mortality (mOM) and generate prevalence estimates for 168 countries and territories. Our results demonstrate that global inequality in mothers’ experience of child loss is enormous: mothers in high-mortality-burden African countries are more than 100 times more likely to have had a child die than mothers in low-mortality-burden Asian and European countries. Our study underscores the implications for the downstream mental and physical health risks associated with bereavement.