The Melbourne family grief study, I: Perceptions of family functioning in bereavement

David W. Kissane, Sidney Bloch, David L. Dowe, Ray D. Snyder, Patrick Onghena, Dean P. McKenzie, Christopher S. Wallace

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124 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: The aim of this study was to identify patterns of families after the death of a parent. Method: one hundred fifteen families completed measures of family functioning, grief, psychological state, and social adjustment 6 weeks (time 1), 6 months (time 2), and 13 months (time 3) after the death of a parent (a total of 670 individual responses). Cluster analytic methods were applied to develop a typology of perceptions of family functioning during bereavement. Results: Five types of families emerged from dimensions of cohesiveness, conflict, and expressiveness on the Family Environment Scale. Thirty-six percent of the families were considered supportive because of their high cohesiveness, and another 23% resolved conflict effectively. Two types were dysfunctional: hostile families, distinguished by high conflict, low cohesiveness, and poor expressiveness, and sullen families, who had more moderate limitations in these three areas; they declined in frequency from 30% at time 1 to 15% at time 3. The remaining type (26%), termed intermediate, exhibited midrange cohesiveness, low control, and low achievement orientation. The typology at time 1 predicted typologies at time 2 and time 3. There were no age or gender differences among the family types, but offspring, as compared with spouses, were overrepresented in the hostile families. Conclusions: Family types can be identified, allowing at-risk families to be helped to prevent complications of grif. Screening with the family relationship index of the Family Environment Scale would facilitate such a family-centered approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)650-658
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1996

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