College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-11-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Kathryn Grant, PhD

Second Advisor

Jocelyn Smith Carter, PhD

Third Advisor

Leonard Jason, PhD


The loss of a loved one due to death can be one of life’s most painful and traumatic experiences. During this challenging period, individuals are more prone to developing physical and emotional health problems. Even though these difficulties should be fully acknowledged, it is important to also acknowledge the possibility of posttraumatic growth (PTG) following bereavement. PTG refers to the positive psychological changes that may occur as a result of highly stressful events and circumstances. These changes include growth in the following five areas: (a) New Possibilities, (b) Relating to Others, (c) Appreciation of Life, (d) Personal Strength, and (e) Spiritual Change. PTG has been found consistently in adults with various traumas, but there is still more to learn about PTG among adolescents. Given that death is one of the most stressful life events experienced by youth, bereaved adolescents are an appropriate population in which to examine PTG. Those who live in urban areas are of particular concern due to their heightened exposure to neighborhood violence, which can increase susceptibility to traumatic events and experiences of loss. In order to gain a better understanding of growth processes in the midst of experiencing the death of a loved one, factors that are related to growth-related outcomes were the primary focus of this research. Sudden and violent deaths were hypothesized to have a greater influence on PTG outcomes compared to more seemingly “natural” and anticipated deaths. The loss of first-degree relatives and friends were also expected to produce greater profiles of PTG compared to second-degree relatives or other adults (non-relatives). Lastly, social support, active coping, and rumination were expected to generate more PTG outcomes in youth. Given that bereavement research has focused largely on the negative outcomes of loss and trauma, this study’s researcher sought to understand positive transformations following bereavement in an urban adolescent population.

There were a total of 408 adolescents (46.6% male; 53.4% female) in grades six through 12 who participated in this study and were recruited from three urban schools. Data collection took place at two time points, six months apart, and included the Post Traumatic Growth measure for the growth outcome variable, Losing People in the Past measure to assess students’ experiences of loss, the Response to Stress Questionnaire to assess coping strategies, and the Places I Spend Time measure to assess social support. In this study, the researcher applied a moderated regression analysis to investigate the moderating effects of bereavement type, relationship with the deceased, and coping strategies on PTG outcomes. The results indicated a statistically significant relationship between bereavement and PTG, while revealing no support for the hypothesized moderators to this relationship. Specifically, bereavement type, relationship with the deceased, and coping strategies did not interact with bereavement to account for additional PTG outcomes.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons