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I feel good, but maybe I shouldn’t: The roles of positive emotions, positivity resonance, and stigma in bereaved parents’ grief adjustment- Asuman Buyukcan

@ 1:00 - 2:15

The Broaden and Build Theory (Frederickson, 2001) posits that positive emotions (e.g., happiness) predict better adjustment after traumatic experiences. Confirming this theoretical argument, studies have shown that bereaved people with frequent positive emotions were more resilient than those with infrequent positive emotions. However, a remaining question is whether positive emotions are associated with better grief adjustment for everyone. In this research, we proposed that positive emotions cannot facilitate, if not harm, grief adjustment if bereaved parents perceive that society finds bereaved people’s display and expression of positive emotions inappropriate (perceived social stigma) or bereaved parents themselves find so (internalized stigma).

We collected dyadic data from Turkish bereaved parents who lost their child during pregnancy, labor, or afterward through a cross-sectional survey and a 7-day diary (228 couples and 27 individuals, total N = 483). We defined grief adjustment as low levels of grief, depression, anxiety, and high levels of post-traumatic growth. We tested our hypotheses for individual-level positive emotions and positivity resonance (i.e., co-experienced positive emotions). Grief adjustment levels were regressed on positive emotions/positivity resonance, perceived social/internalized stigma, and their interaction in multilevel analyses. Considering the interdependence between bereaved parents, we examined the effects on both partners’ grief adjustment.

The results did not confirm the expected interactive effect of positive emotions with stigma on grief adjustment. Except for a few cases, the non-significant interaction results held across the analyses with positive emotions, positivity resonance, perceived social stigma, and internalized stigma, and did not depend on the outcome (i.e., grief, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic growth). Bereaved parents had better levels of grief adjustment on the days their positive emotions and positivity resonance levels were higher than usual, except for bereaved fathers’ grief levels. Negative partner effects of positive emotions and positivity resonance levels emerged for both mothers’ and fathers’ depression levels. Fathers’ positive emotions and both parents’ positivity resonance levels on a day were negatively related to their partner’s anxiety levels on the same day. Partner effects were mixed for grief and did not occur for post-traumatic growth. Finally, mothers’ internalized stigma levels were positively associated with their and their partner’s grief, depression, and anxiety.

These findings suggest that bereaved parents’ individual-level and co-experienced positive emotions are a source of resilience, even if they think they should not feel that way. Moreover, mothers’ internalized stigma is a risk factor for both parents’ adjustment. In this talk, I will also present the changes in these average results across loss types and controlling for confounding variables, and discuss the findings considering socially appropriate behaviors after loss, interdependence between bereaved parents, and cultural context.


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