Neuropsychological correlates of complicated grief in older spousally bereaved adults

Mary Frances O'Connor, Brian J. Arizmendi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives. Across many research domains, evidence for complicated grief as a distinct psychopathology continues to grow. Previous research from neuropsychology has shown an increased attentional bias to emotionally relevant stimuli in those suffering from complicated grief. This study furthers our understanding of the characteristics that distinguish complicated grief. We expand on previous research by (a) testing older adults, (b) excluding those with comorbid major depressive disorder, (c) using participant-chosen grief-related stimuli, and (d) using a married, nonbereaved control group. Methods. We recruited 76 older adults in 3 groups: spousally bereaved with complicated grief, spousally bereaved with noncomplicated grief, and nonbereaved controls. Performance on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task, Digit Span Backwards, and the emotional counting Stroop was examined. Results. Results indicate longer reaction time across 3 blocks of grief-related words in the complicated grief group but no difference across 3 blocks of the neutral words. The 3 groups performed comparably on the other neurocognitive tasks, indicating no cognitive differences in working memory or set shifting between groups. Furthermore, these effects of complicated grief generalize to older adults and appear independent of major depression. Discussion. Complicated grief has cognitive interference as a neuropsychological component highlighting it as distinct from noncomplicated grief.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-18
Number of pages7
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Volume69
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2014

Keywords

  • Aging
  • Attention
  • Bereavement
  • Complicated grief
  • Stroop
  • Widow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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