The Impact of Bereaved Parents’ Perceived Grief Similarity on Relationship Satisfaction

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Abstract

The present research focused on bereaved parents’ perceived grief similarity, and aimed to investigate the concurrent and longitudinal effects of the perceptions that the partner has less, equal, or more grief intensity than oneself on relationship satisfaction. Participants of our longitudinal study were 229 heterosexual bereaved Dutch couples who completed questionnaires 6, 13, and 20 months after the loss of their child. Average age of participants was 40.7 (SD = 9.5). Across 3 study waves, participants’ perceived grief similarity and relationship satisfaction were assessed. To control for their effects, own grief level, child’s gender, expectedness of loss, parent’s age, parent’s gender, and time were also included in the analyses. Consistent with the hypotheses, cross-sectional results revealed that bereaved parents who perceived dissimilar levels of grief (less or more grief) had lower relationship satisfaction than bereaved parents who perceived similar levels of grief. This effect remained significant controlling for the effects of possible confounding variables and actual similarity in grief between partners. We also found that perceived grief similarity at the first study wave was related to the highest level of relationship satisfaction at the second study wave. Moreover, results showed that perceived grief similarity was associated with a higher level in partner’s relationship satisfaction. Results are discussed considering the comparison and similarity in grief across bereaved partners after child loss.

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