Attachment style and bereavement reactions

Heidi A. Wayment, Jennifer Vierthaler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


This study explored specific associations between global attachment styles (e.g., secure, anxiousambivalent, avoidant), attachment to the deceased, suddenness of death, and three specific reactions to bereavement (grief, depression, and somatization) in a sample of 91 adults (21 men, 70 women) who had lost a loved one in the past 18 months. A path model on cross-sectional data (obtained after the bereavement) examined several specific predictions, controlling for background variables such as gender, age, and education of the respondents, age of the deceased, time since the death, and social desirability responding. As predicted, individuals who reported having a closer attachment to the deceased and had a more sudden loss reported greater levels of grief. Individuals with an anxious-ambivalent attachment style reported greater levels of grief and depression. Somatization was more likely to be reported by those with an avoidant attachment style. Although not predicted, we also found that individuals with a secure attachment style reported less depression. Social desirability responding was associated with reports of more grief. A greater time since the death and less education were associated with less depression, and older respondents reported less somatization. Discussion focuses on the importance of distinguishing grief, depression, and somatization following bereavement in order to better predict and identify individuals at risk for adverse bereavement reactions. In the context of the study's limitations (cross-sectional design and issues of generalizability), the potential utility attachment style may provide in identifying maladaptive reactions following the loss of a loved one is also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-149
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Loss and Trauma
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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