Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Cooperating University

University of Kentucky


Social Work

Degree Program

Social Work, PhD

Committee Chair

Lawson, Thomas

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Head, Barbara

Committee Member

Head, Barbara

Committee Member

Faul, Anna

Committee Member

Sar, Bibhuti

Committee Member

Sossou, Marie-Antoinette

Author's Keywords

parental grief; death of a child; older adults; one-child policy; China; aging


Most modern grief theories and clinical working models are constructed in the context of Western culture, and the effectiveness or explanatory power of those theories and models have not been fully tested in other cultures, especially through a more complex interactive model. The current study focuses on the role of attachment style, coping strategy, social support and spirituality on older bereaved parents’ grief. It also explores if differences in age, gender, causes of the child’s death, time since the death have a differential effect on parental grief. The purpose of this study was to test the main factors effectively mediating or aggregating the extent of Chinese parents’ grief following their only child’s death. The sample of this study consisted of 206 Chinese older parents whose child has died. Since the study includes the development of initial theory and model construction aided by data collection, structural equation modeling (SEM) is utilized as the analysis method. Results found statistically significant effects of attachment style, coping strategy, social support on the level of parental grief. Different groups showed different behavioral patterns in response to the death of a child. Specifically, women showed more insecure attachment style, had more daily spiritual experiences and perceived more social support. Older participants perceived less social support. Implications for social work practice, research, theory development, policy change are discussed.

Included in

Social Work Commons