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A Prospective Comparison of Bereaved Spouses

The study conducted by George Bonanno, Kathleen Lalande, Jennie Noll, Anthony Papa, Nanping Zhang (2005) entitled Grief Processing and Deliberate Grief Avoidance: A Prospective Comparison of Bereaved Spouses and Parents in the United States and the People’s Republic of China examines the perceived benefits and negative effects of both the process of bereavement and the deliberate avoidance of grief psychosomatically over a period of 18 months. Using variant sampling and culturally sensitive test questions, respondents were split into the Oriental i.

e. Chinese and Western i. e. American groups each linked to specific cultural assumptions viz. Chinese are less likely to show grief and grief processing compared to Americas who will engage in the grieving processes for a certain duration. Two major issues are being addressed by the study. First, there is a dearth of empirical data to support the claims that engaging the grieving process would result to a better grief outcome than would avoiding grief to the bereaved.

The authors however hypothesize that the traditional notions of grief processing as having salutary benefits and as one of the more essential means to avoid further grief in the future or an exacerbation thereof only applies to those severely grieved individuals (Bonnano et al. , 2005). In other words, engaging in grief processes as a healthy exercise for the mind and body does not generally apply to normal types of losses but instead only to losses on the extreme ends.

Corollary, the authors likewise believe and predict that in certain instances too much grief can actually lead to more physical and psychological problems for the individual (Bonnano et al. , 2005). Second, with a culturally diverse sampling—specifically Chinese and American respondents, the authors hypothesize that the coping mechanisms of grieving and grief avoidance may have different effects across different cultures and may even vary according to the kinds of loss experienced specifically the death of a child or a spouse (2005).

Participants to the study can be divided into two major groups: the Chinese and American groups. It is assumed, albeit broadly, that the Chinese closely follow the model of grief avoidance while Americans culturally engage in personal grief processes (Bonnano et al. , 2005). Each of these groups is then further subdivided into two categories depending wholly on whether or not the particular loss involves the death of a spouse or a child. It is further assumed that the loss of a child produces the worse kind of grief than the loss of a spouse notwithstanding cultural contexts (2005).

In other words, those who experience parental loss would be more susceptible to extreme kinds of grief or grieving as compared to those experiencing spousal loss regardless whether or not such losses were experienced by respondents from either the Chinese or American group. In sum, the study uses cultural differences and contexts whether China or American as the primary tier of distinction whereas factual differences regarding the type of loss whether parental or conjugal become subordinate to these categories.

In order to minimize other variables regarding age differences between spouses, and between parent and child, the ages of all the participants were restricted at the maximum of 65 years. The minimum age to qualify for the study was not mentioned but it is safe to say that a person is qualified if such a person has experienced or is experiencing the loss of a spouse or a child (Bonnano et al. , 2005). Respondents of the American group were recruited in the metropolitan areas of Washington D. C. in the United States while respondents of the Chinese group were recruited in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province in China (2005).

Recruitment of the respondents was initiated primarily by using available public records to search for individuals who are recently experiencing the loss of a child or a spouse. The American sample, for instance, was completed by first sending letters to “(a) recently bereaved individuals who were listed as surviving parents or spouses in newspaper obituary notices and (b) individuals likely to have contact with bereaved individuals (e. g. medical and mental health professionals, clergy)” (Bonnano et al.

, 2005) to inform them of the study and to encourage them to participate thereafter. The Chinese sample was completed by looking at available government official records. In either case, the willingness and consent of the respondents to participate were relayed by phone or mail, or by personally contacting prospective participants. Data was gathered using a simple response-questionnaire method whereby the respondents were asked 13 carefully constructed questions regarding the manner in which they have or have not grieved for a recent loss of a child or a spouse.

As for the respondents from the People’s Republic of China, research assistants personally went to each respondent and read the questions aloud and explained them accordingly. Notably, questions found in the Chinese questionnaire were formulated by Bonnano, Lalande, Zhang et al. (2005) first in English, then translated into Mandarin and thereafter retranslated to English in order to ensure that the import of every phrase was consistent with its American counterpart.

The items in the questionnaire examined both the grief process and the avoidance of grief according to scale, meaning to say that the responses were rated on a 5-point scale from the lowest value of 1 or almost never to the highest value of 5 or almost constantly (2005). The process of grief were set against three communal backdrops namely, grief amidst close family and friends, and grieving done alone. The avoidance of grief, on the other hand, was to be answered on the same factual contexts such as the deliberate attempt to hide one’s sorrow or manifestation of grief before close family and friends.

Lastly, all participants were asked to report during the 18-month period whether or not there were any notable or significant improvements to their overall mental and physical state. Participants had to track changes in their psychological well-being which changes were set against the Symptom Check List (Bonnano et al. , 2005) to ascertain the level of “depression, anxiety, hostility etc”. The results were measured against a National Index to determine how the respondents fared against the National average statistic.

In the same vein, participants were asked about their physical and medical conditions particularly on whether or not they were “physically healthy enough to carry out the things you like to do or had to do? ” (2005). The purpose of the standard health response was to show just how (in-) effective grief processes are when it comes to quick recovery from clinical grief. Based on the results, the data shows that in both the Chinese and American groups, the effects of either grief process and avoidance of grief were virtually uncorrelated.

However, there are statistically significant differences between Chinese and American mourning. Bonnano et al. (2005) observe that the bereavement process during the first months were intense in the Chinese group as opposed to the American group. Also, unlike the American group, the Chinese group showed a considerable level of grief avoidance overall (2005). In other words, the authors’ hypothesis that culture exerts a considerable amount of influence to the effects of grief and avoidance of grief in that the slopes are more pronounced in one group over the other (2005).

The data results further debunk two of three contentious hypotheses regarding grief and avoidance of grief which include the traditional assumption and conditional grief hypotheses. Using distress as a function of time and loss, the graphs show that participants who engage in grief processes or avoid grief still suffer the same difficulties in long-term adjustments. Bonnano et al. (2005) claim that the results are more consistent with the grief as rumination hypothesis where an individual who suffers loss and engages at any time in the process of bereavement will likely experience elevated negative emotions.

In other words, the data shows grieving at the initial stages of the loss will not help in any significant way in the process of recovery (2005). Reference Bonanno, G. A. , Lalande, K. , Noll, J. G. , Papa, A. , Zhang, N. (2005). Grief processing and deliberate grief avoidance: a prospective comparison of bereaved spouses and parents in the United States and the People’s Republic of China. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 86-96.

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