Date of Award

5-1-2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Counseling, Quantitative Methods, and Special Education

First Advisor

Asner-Self, Kimberly

Abstract

Familial bereavement is recognized as a considerable life crisis (Strobe & Hanson, 2001). Furthermore, bereaved parents are more likely to be at risk for having long lasting, and intense psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, and even suicide (Darbyshire, 2013; Omerove et.al, 2013). Losing a child is a devastating experience, which dramatically changes the parents’ lives (Darbyshire, 2013; Oliver, 1999; Omerove et.al, 2013). Although much research has addressed the experiences of bereaved parents, and has come up with themes related to coping experiences, the research is still restricted to the western world, and has yet not intensely addressed the cross-cultural aspect. Although limiting this study to adherents of the three Abrahamic religions in the U.S. is still restricted in some way to the western world, in other ways it opens the door to understanding parental bereavement differences across three religions. Spirituality, religiosity, perceived social support, and marital relationship have been found to be buffers to grief; yet, it is not clear how essential these variables are to the bereaved parents across different religions. The current cross-sectional study was to examine the relationship among adjustment and other factors (spirituality, religiosity, perceived social support, and marital relationship) that might influence adjustment to bereavement among Christian, Jewish, and Muslim bereaved parents. A cross-sectional online survey was launched from January to February 2016 to measure participants’ baseline adjustment, spirituality, religiosity, perceived social support, and marital relationship. A diverse group of 145 bereaved parents participated in this study, including 65 religious Christians (44.83%), 41 religious Jews (28.28%), and 39 religious Muslims (26.90%) with an average age of 44 (SD = 12.80). The results indicated that there were statistically significant differences between the three religious groups in terms of their adjustment, religiosity spirituality, perceived social support, and marital relationship. Muslims were found to have higher baseline rates of all study constructs more than Jewish and Christian bereaved parents. The results indicated only perceived social support and spirituality significantly predicted the adjustment level among the bereaved parents when holding all other terms constant. Whereas only perceived social support and religious involvement significantly predicted the marital relationship level among the bereaved parents when holding all other terms constant. These results shed light on some important implications for counselor educators and particularly for practitioners working with the bereaved parents populations. Limitations and recommendations for further research are also suggested.

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