An examination of the relationship between attachment and loss : the role of meaning-making



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This dissertation examined the relationship between attachment insecurity and complicated grief by testing a path model of variables that were hypothesized to mediate this relationship. Three meaning-making variables were tested as potential mediators: benefit-finding, sense-making, and positive reappraisal. First, a series of principal components analyses were performed to determine the factor structure of these meaning-making variables. After these constructs were identified, a series of hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to determine the unique contribution of each of the primary variables in predicting either complicated grief or one of the meaning-making variables. As hypothesized, some of the attachment and meaning-making variables were highly associated with complicated grief. Attachment insecurity variables were also associated with some of the meaning-making variables suggesting that attachment may have some influence on how individuals use meaning-making strategies in the midst of a loss. These variables were then entered into a path analysis that accounted for other relevant risk factors. It was found that, contrary to the main hypothesis, the meaning-making variables did not appear to mediate the relationship between attachment insecurity and complicated grief. Multiple regression was used to determine the relative impact of meaning-making and attachment variables on complicated grief because these variables have not been previously included in one statistical model. The results suggested that both meaning-making and attachment insecurity variables can play an important role as risk factors for complicated grief and that these relationships are still present after accounting for the closeness that an individual reported towards the deceased. It was concluded that both sets of variables, attachment and meaning-making, should be included in models of the development of complicated grief and that both may have clinical implications in terms of how to approach counseling for individuals struggling with complicated grief. More research on this topic is needed to look at similar research questions within specific populations. It was also suggested that in the future, researchers need to find better ways to measure meaning-making constructs because the current findings suggest that meaning-making may be even more multifaceted than has been suggested in previous literature.