Date Awarded

Summer 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Charles F Gressard

Committee Member

Thomas J Ward

Committee Member

Patrick R Mullen


Impacting millions of youth in the United States and across the globe, early parental death can be a very stressful and traumatic event and is an important topic to investigate. Utilizing an Eriksonian developmental perspective, this study (N = 256) examined a group of young adults who experienced a parental death during adolescence and a group of young adults who had not experienced an early parental death. The researcher examined the developmental impact of early parental death, and developed a predictive model of posttraumatic growth (PTG) for young adults who have experienced early parental death. When compared to non-bereaved peers, young adults who experienced a parental death during adolescence had lower psychosocial developmental strength; this impact did not vary due to demographic variables (e.g., gender, SES, ethnicity, age), type of parental death, gender of the deceased parent, age when death occurred, or the closeness of the relationship with the deceased parent. This study also affirmed the relationships between psychosocial development, social support, religiosity/spirituality, and PTG, emphasizing social support, spirituality, and psychosocial development as statistically significant predictors of PTG in young adults who experienced an early parental death. The strong statistical relationship between psychosocial development and PTG also affirmed the literature that has theorized this relationship. Investigating two different developmental periods contributed to the limited research on the long-term trajectory of PTG in individuals who experienced early parental death, and provided insight into sustaining PTG throughout the lifespan as well. Limitations and suggestions for future research are presented, along with implications for the profession of counseling.




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