The purpose of this study was to give empirical proof that continuing bonds of attachment to a deceased spouse would give the most successful adaptation to bereavement. The study examined the measures of psychological adjustment within a 5 year post-loss period. By the end of the study, the researchers hoped to gain insight into if continued bonds would lead to adaptive lifestyle or would it be maladaptive and would continued bonds prove to lead to a healthier ongoing life.
89 participants were selected to start the study. 5 years post-loss of their bereavement, only 39 could participate in the 5 year follow up. The 39 participants included the following: 26 women and 13 men between the ages of 28-56.
The participants lived in the San Francisco Bay area. The participants were recruited through newspaper ads, posted notices, and referrals from a variety of institutions.
The measured data came from a variety of psychological test and grief-specific symptomatology questionnaires. Additionally there were measurements of the participant’s relationship to the deceased while the spouse was alive. The target behavior as identified in the study, states,
“If continuing bonds at 5 years postloss are an expression of refusal to relinquish the attachment due to excessive dependency on the deceased, anxious attachment should be associated with greater use of continuing bonds at 5 years postloss. On the other hand, if continuing bonds are simply an expression of a more satisfying prior relationship with the deceased, a positive correlation should be expected between a measure of relationship satisfaction in the prior relationship with the deceased and continuing bonds.” (Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2003, p. 111)
The experimental design was a longitudinal conjugal bereavement study. The participants were involved in various activities or test to measure their grief symptoms and their continued bond to the deceased at 6, 14, 25, and 60 months post-loss.
A Continued Bond Scale (CBS) was created for the study. The scale consisted of 11 items covering ways to remain bonded to the deceased spouse. Some of the items include keeping mementos of the deceased as reminders, taking on the deceased’s habits, values or interests, attempts to carry out the deceased’s wishes, and a few other criteria.
The first area which was examined was if the participants were enduring part of successful adaptation to bereavement. The study concluded that some continuing bonds expressions remained prominent well after death. However, the results were not able to support their long–term adaptiveness.