Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Kathryn Howell

Committee Member

Randy Floyd

Committee Member

Tracy Hipp

Committee Member

Leigh Williams


Background: The present study qualitatively explored the roles of multiple social-ecological supports (i.e., spirituality, parent-child communication, therapist support via grief counseling) in the lives of parentally bereaved youth. The selected supports are theoretically grounded within the well-documented and highly cited Ecological Systems Theory and the buffering hypothesis of social support. Method: Reflexive thematic analysis was utilized to analyze 30 semi-structured interviews with parentally bereaved youth ages 8-17 (Mage=12.53, SD=2.8). Most participants identified as girls (63.33%) and the most frequently reported race was White (43.33%). Results: The reflexive thematic analysis resulted in 10 overarching themes or domains: (1) Positive and Active Role of Spirituality, (2) Little to No Role of Spirituality, (3) Stronger Spiritual Relationship Post-Bereavement, (4) No Change in Spirituality, (5) Questioning Ones Faith and Abandoning Religion, (6) Open Communication about Deceased, (7) Avoiding Talking about Decreased, (8) Caregiver Directed Positively Valenced Communication about the Decreased, (9) Remain in Counseling, and (10) Choice to Discontinue Counseling. Discussion: The overarching themes and the content of their themes and subthemes highlight that these social-ecological sources of support serve varied and vital functions in the lives of parentally bereaved youth. Namely, the benefits of grief counseling and spirituality were overwhelmingly identified by youth as critical in facilitating their coping with the loss of a parent. Whereas parental communication regarding the deceased varied widely, highlighting the need for additional supports beyond the relational support offered by surviving caregivers.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest