Date on Senior Honors Thesis


Document Type

Senior Honors Thesis


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Degree Program

College of Arts and Sciences

Author's Keywords

Bereavement; Older adults; Younger adults; Psychology; Grief; Socioemotional selectivity theory; Positive emotions; Negative emotions


Bereavement is the state of dealing with a significant loss (M.S. Stroebe, Hansson, Schut, & Stroebe, 2008). Although evidence suggests that there are differences in the bereavement and coping styles of older and younger adults, few studies have been done focusing solely on the differences. The lack of research on this topic merits further study. The purpose of this project was to examine the differences in negative emotions, affective complexity, and repressive coping, between bereaved younger and older adults. We hypothesized that bereaved older adults would report fewer negative emotions, have greater emotional complexity, and use repressive coping more than their younger counterparts. Participants were 51 older adults and 110 younger adults recruited throughout the Louisville community, all of who were bereaved less than a year. We compared reactions to grief in both groups by administering the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), and Marlow-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (MC), among other measures. We found only partial support for differences in affective complexity, and the results supported the hypothesis that older adults would be more likely to use repressive coping. In other respects, older and younger adults appeared to respond very similarly to bereavement, which may be quite consistent across the lifespan. Future research might examine how affective complexity may be advantageous to the bereavement process, particularly for older adults.