Date of Award:

1986

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

Michael R. Bertoch

Abstract

The purpose of this paper was to attempt to identify variables which may enhance the ability of older widowed persons to adjust to viii bereavement. Depression and perceptions of physical health were the two aspects of adjustment selected for study. Several variables which current literature suggests may mediate grief adjustment were examined for their potential relationship to bereavement outcome. These were gender, level of grief, anticipatory grief and social network. The possible relationship between depression and perceptions of physical health was also examined for.

Subjects were 75 men and women, age 55 and over, who were recently widowed, and 29 non-bereaved men and women who served as controls. All subjects were caucasian, Mormon, and lived in small rural communities. To gather data on the variables in question, these instruments were used: the Beck Depression Inventory, and the Texas Inventory of Grief. Information on anticipatory grief, social network, and self-ratings of physical health was obtained using a structured interview developed at the Andrus Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California. Data was gathered at two times. The initial interview was held within two months of the death of each bereaved subject's spouse, and again six months later. Control subjects were interviewed twice, six to eight months apart.

Multiple regression equations with foreward inclusion were computed to identify those variables which accounted for most of the cvariance in depression scores and self-ratings of physical health.

Gender and bereavement status (whether a subject was bereaved or control) were not found to be significantly related to depression or self-ratings of physical health. Social network variables were found to facilitate lower depression scores and higher ratings of physical health, although the aspects of social network which were significant varied over time (initially family, then later non-family relationships were most important.) Depression and self-ratings of physical health were closely related. High level of grief was closely associated with high depression scores, but not with self-ratings of physical health. Expectation of the spouse's death was associated with lower self-ratings of physical health.

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