Stress and coping in recent conjugally bereaved rural black spouses
Thesis (PhD (Pscychology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study explored the relationship between stress and coping strategies in bereavement among 198 recently widowed rural black spouses (mean age 48.19 years). Correlations and multiple regression analyses were sought between coping strategies (as measured by the Coping Strategy Indicator) and anxiety (as measured by the Beck Anxiety Inventory), depression (as measured by the Beck Depression Inventory-Second Edition), social support (as measured by the Social Support Appraisals Scale), pre-loss marital relationship (as measured by the ENRICHMarital Satisfaction Scale) and demographic variables. Of the participants who took part in the study, 87.88% were at least mildly depressed, while 69.19% experienced anxiety of above average intensity. While no significant correlations were found between anxiety and the three kinds of coping strategies, significant positive correlations emerged between depression and both the problem-solving- and social support-seeking coping strategies. Moreover, a problem-solving coping strategy merged as a significant positive predictor of depression, while an avoidant coping strategy was found to be a significant negative predictor of depression. Anxiety was negatively correlated with social support appraisal, and anxiety emerged as a significant negative predictor of perceived social support, with depression being a significant positive predictor of social support appraisal. Significant positive correlations emerged between the problem-solving coping strategy and perceived social support, while a problem-solving coping strategy emerged as a significant positive predictor of social support appraisal, and social support-seeking coping strategy being a significant negative predictor of social support appraisal. Significant positive correlations were revealed between subjective retrospective assessment of pre-loss marital relationship and anxiety scores, while significant negative correlations were found between a problem-solving coping strategy and pre-loss marital relationship appraisal. While no coping strategies played a predictive role in the subjective perceptions of the nature of the pre-loss marital relationship, higher levels of subjective retrospective assessment of pre-loss marital relationship were strongly associated with such demographic characteristics as middle-income home earnings, the semi-literacy, the sexually inactivity, as well as closeness and cohesiveness of a marriage. Qualitative data obtained from participant interviews revealed the compounding factors in the experience and manifestation of stress associated with the death of a spouse, such as marked social isolation, loss of 'protective' status of being married as well as singlehanded parental and household responsibilities. Moreover, cultural aspects such as continued bonds with the deceased - in the form of hallucinatory experiences towards the deceased spouse - as well as the highly anticipated unveiling ritual that would mark the culmination of the societal prescription of a mouming period, served as ameliorative factors in the experience of grief and coping with the additional stressors secondary to loss. These findings point to the necessity for bereavement intervention programmes aimed at equipping the conjugally bereaved with practical problem-solving skills necessary for managing daily problems emanating from the loss of a spouse. Moreover, basic support groups need to prioritize psycho-educating the conjugally bereaved individuals to continuously evaluate their support structures and strengthen ties with social networks that readily render instrumental assistance and advice in times of need. Notwithstanding the short-term benefits of avoidant coping, the continued sustenance of social and emotional support requires fostering interpersonal transactions that are channelled towards exchanging problem-focused aid in order for the widowed to effectivelydeal with the strain of conjugal loss in a longer term. Furthermore, the traditional-religious aspects of the participants' bereavement necessitate channelling of bereavement intervention programmes to be congruent with the frame of reference and belief systems of these communities, in order to make a meaningful and culturally sensitive intervention aimed at facilitating individuals' coping with spousal death.