Negative cognitions and avoidance in emotional problems after bereavement: a prospective study

Behav Res Ther. 2006 Nov;44(11):1657-72. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2005.12.006. Epub 2006 Feb 2.


Cognitive behavioural conceptualisations of grief propose that negative cognitions and avoidance strategies play a key role in emotional problems after bereavement. In the current study, this assumption was examined. Ninety-seven individuals who had lost a relative less than 5 months ago completed questionnaires tapping background and loss-related variables, negative cognitions (about the self, life, the future, and one's own grief reactions), avoidance, and symptoms of complicated grief (CG) and depression. Of these mourners, 70 people (72%) completed symptom measures again 6 months later at T2 (7-10 months after the loss), and 60 (62%) completed symptoms measures still 9 months later at T3 (16-19 months after the loss). Among other things, results showed that all four cognitive variables and the avoidance variable were strongly associated with concurrent and prospective symptom levels, even when the influence of relevant background/loss-related variables was controlled. In addition, independent of initial symptom levels, most of the cognitive variables predicted later CG and depression. The avoidance variable only predicted additional variance in depression at T3 beyond T1 symptom levels. Findings indicate that negative cognitions are important in emotional problems after bereavement and that the role of avoidance in the development of these problems needs further scrutiny.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Avoidance Learning*
  • Bereavement*
  • Cognition*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Grief
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Negativism
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychometrics