Boelen, P. A., Kip, J. J., Voorsluijs, J. J., & Bout, J. van den (2004). Irrational beliefs and basic assumptions in bereaved university students: a comparison study . Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 22, 111-129.


Several authors have argued that the loss of a loved one triggers changes in people's beliefs and assumptions, and that these changes play a role in emotional problems after bereavement. The present study was an attempt to investigate these hypotheses. Thirty students who had been confronted with the death of a parent or sibling, on average nearly 3 years ago, were compared with 30 nonbereaved matched control subjects on different measures assessing basic assumptions and irrational beliefs as defined in REBT. In line with the notion that bereavement has an impact on people's basic assumptions, results showed that bereaved students had a less positive view of the meaningfulness of the world and the worthiness of the self than their nonbereaved counterparts. Also, in accord with the notion that the tendency to think irrationally is likely to increase after a stressful life event, the bereaved were found to have higher levels of irrational thinking. Furthermore, it was found that the degree to which bereaved individuals endorsed general as well as bereavement-specific irrational beliefs was significantly associated with the intensity of symptoms of traumatic grief. Conversely, none of the basic assumptions was associated with traumatic grief. Beliefs reflecting low frustration tolerance explained most variance in traumatic grief. Clinical and theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.