An Examination of Attachment Styles and Distress Among Parents Who Have Lost a Child to Cancer
An Examination of Attachment Styles and Distress Among Parents Who Have Lost a Child to CancerPhilip M. Domingue, Ph.D.Director: Karlynn BrintzenhofeSzoc, Ph.D.This study of bereaved parents whose child died of cancer, investigated how retrospective insecure attachment and social support impact both the individual and the couple in dimensions of marital satisfaction, grief, and psychological distress. The impact of levels of discrepancy in retrospective attachment styles between spouses, on marital satisfaction, grief, psychological distress, and social support were examined. The study also explored the impact of insecure attachment and social support on grief oscillation (ref: Dual Processing Model of Grief) (DPM). The study utilized a cross- sectional correlational survey design. Couples bereaved in the last five years, still living together at diagnosis of deceased child, were invited to participate through support organizations such as Candlelighters in both the U.S. and Canada. The survey consisted of seven standardized tools: Retrospective Attachment Questionnaire (RAQ), Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS), Hogan Grief Reaction Checklist (HGRC), Texas Revised Inventory of Grief (TRIG), Inventory of Daily Widowed Life (IDWL), and Social Support Index (SSI)). Demographic data was also collected. The sample consisted of 86 individual and 32 couples. The data was analysed using SPSSS and multivariate analysis of three hypotheses were performed. Results showed mixed support for all three hypotheses. Insecure attachment was a stronger predictor of grief, than gender. Insecure attachment and social support were both predictors of psychological distress. Retrospective attachment style was not a significant predictor of marital satisfaction/distress however, the control variable gender and social support were. Discrepancy of anxious ambivalent attachment in the couple increased the level of social support. An interaction between discrepancy in disorganized attachment and gender impacted levels of grief. In terms of oscillation balance of grief insecure attachment was the only significant predictor with social support trending. This study supports aspect of the DPM, specifically the claim that attachment styles have an impact on individual and to some extent on couples grieving outcomes. The findings support the DPM concept of oscillation balance and that loss and resolution orientations are separate grieving tasks. Retrospective attachment was stronger predictor of grief than gender. Researchers and clinicians should consider retrospective attachment styles as an important variable in grief.
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