Social Constraints are Associated with Negative Psychological and Physical Adjustment in Bereavement

Vanessa Juth, Joshua M. Smyth, Michael P. Carey, Stephen J. Lepore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Losing a loved one is a normative life event, yet there is great variability in subsequent interpersonal experiences and adjustment. The Social-Cognitive Processing (SCP) model suggests that social constraints (i.e. limited opportunities to disclose thoughts and feelings in a supportive context) impede emotional and cognitive processing of stressful life events, which may lead to maladjustment. This study investigates personal and loss-related correlates of social constraints during bereavement, the links between social constraints and post-loss adjustment, and whether social constraints moderate the relations between loss-related intrusive thoughts and adjustment. A community sample of bereaved individuals (n=238) provided demographic and loss-related information and reported on their social constraints, loss-related intrusions, and psychological and physical adjustment. Women, younger people, and those with greater financial concerns reported more social constraints. Social constraints were significantly associated with more depressive symptoms, perceived stress, somatic symptoms, and worse global health. Individuals with high social constraints and high loss-related intrusions had the highest depressive symptoms and perceived life stress. Consistent with the SCP model, loss-related social constraints are associated with poorer adjustment, especially psychological adjustment. In particular, experiencing social constraints in conjunction with loss-related intrusions may heighten the risk for poor psychological health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-148
Number of pages20
JournalApplied Psychology: Health and Well-Being
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology


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