Pathological bereavement outcomes (i.e., complicated grief, traumatic grief, prolonged grief disorder) are a robust and growing research area in the psychological and medical sciences. Although grief is considered to be a universal phenomenon, it is well documented that grieving processes and outcomes are culturally and contextually bound. The objectives of this study were: (a) to examine representations of African Americans in the grief and mourning literature and to assess the extent to which this research utilizes pathological grief outcomes; and (b) to examine the characteristics of pathological grief constructs in the literature to assess their relevance for African American populations. We conducted comprehensive searches of three scientific databases including PsycNET, Medline, and CINAHL, which contain the majority of grief and mourning literature published between January 1998 and February 2014. We found 59 studies addressing grief and mourning in African Americans. Thirteen of these studies used pathological grief outcomes. Pathological grief outcomes that were constructed and validated on White populations were frequently used as outcome variables with African American participants. We discuss the implications for the grief and mourning field and argue that the failure to use culturally sensitive outcome measures in research studies is a form of epistemological violence that may have negative research and clinical implications for African Americans and other ethnic minorities.
Keywords: African Americans; complicated grief; pathological grief; traumatic grief; universalism.