The nature of attachment relationships and grief responses in older adults: An attachment path model of grief

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Abstract

Background: Various researchers have theorized that bereaved adults who report non-secure attachment are at higher risk of pathological grief. Yet past findings on avoidant attachment representations and grief have yielded limited and contradictory outcomes. Little research has been conducted with older adults to identify the psychological processes that mediate between self-reported attachment representations and the patterns of grief. Objective: To examine the impacts of avoidant attachment and anxious attachment dimensions on emotion and non-acceptance, in response to the loss of a conjugal partner, and the mediating effect of yearning thoughts. Design: Men (N = 21) and women (N = 68) aged 60 years and above who had lost a partner within the last 12 to 72 months were invited to participate. Participants rated their levels of yearning thoughts about the deceased, emotions and non-acceptance on the Texas Revised Inventory of Grief (TRIG-Present), and their type and level of general romantic attachment on the Experiences In Close Relationship questionnaire (ECR). Results: Structural equation modelling (SEM) indicated that individuals who reported higher levels of avoidant attachment reported less emotional responses and less non-acceptance. SEM also showed that individuals who reported higher levels of anxious attachment reported greater emotional responses and greater non-acceptance. SEM further indicated that these relationships were mediated by yearning thoughts. Conclusion: People adopt different grief coping patterns according to their self-reported attachment representations, with the nature of their yearning thoughts influencing the process. Grief therapy may be organized according to individual differences in attachment representations.

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Kho, Y., Kane, R. T., Priddis, L., & Hudson, J. (2015). The nature of attachment relationships and grief responses in older adults: An attachment path model of grief. PLoS ONE, 10(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0133703

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