Boelen, P. A. (2012). A prospective examination of the association between the centrality of a loss and post-loss psychopathology. Journal of Affective Disorders, 137, 117-124.
Background: Research has shown that the extent to which a negative event has become central to one's everyday inferences, life-story, and identity is associated with the severity of psychopathology experienced following this event. The current study aimed to extend this prior research by examining the prospective linkage between the centrality of a loss-event and post-loss psychopathology. Methods: To this end, 176 individuals, bereaved within the past year, completed the Centrality of Event Scale (CES) with their loss as the anchor event, together with measures of Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD), depression, and bereavement-related Posttraumatic Stress-Disorder (PTSD) and complementary questionnaires. One hundred participants again completed symptom-measures one year later. Results: Findings showed that (a) the centrality of a loss was associated with concurrent symptom-levels of PGD, depression, and PTSD; (b) the centrality of a loss predicted PGD-severity, depression-severity, and PTSD-severity one year later, after controlling for baseline symptom-levels; (c) these cross-sectional and prospective linkages remained significant when controlling for relevant demographic and loss-related variables, as well as for indices of neuroticism, attachment anxiety, attachment avoidance and persistent closeness to the lost person. Limitations: Limitations include the under-representation of men and the reliance on self-report measures. Conclusions: The current findings provide evidence that the centrality of a negative event is a prospective predictor of post-event psychopathology.