Investigating risk for grief severity: Attachment to the deceased and relationship quality


Previous research examining the interrelationship between attachment, relationship quality, and bereavement outcomes suffers from a lack of precision and sophistication in the measurement of the core constructs of interest. The present study adapted an existing measure of attachment and employed a novel instrument of relationship quality to examine specific attachment to and relationship quality with the deceased as contributors to grief symptom severity. A sample of 385 bereaved college students completed measures retrospectively assessing relationship quality, attachment to the deceased, and grief symptomatology. Findings indicate that specific attachment to the deceased differs significantly from global attachment style and that relationship quality and attachment anxiety and avoidance interact in significant ways to predict the risk of grief severity. Specifically, individuals with a Preoccupied attachment style (high anxiety, low avoidance) are most at risk for adverse grief reactions in the context of high relationship closeness and conflict. This study is limited by an over-representation of extended family loss, which may have unique implications for attachment and relationship quality. Grief therapists should consider the implications of attachment and relationship quality with the deceased in the selection of relationship-enhancing or relational problem-solving interventions.

Publication Title

Death Studies