An evolutionary approach to grief-related rumination: Construction and validation of the Bereavement Analytical Rumination Questionnaire

Paul W. Andrews, Maxwell Altman, Marcela Sevcikova, Joanne Cacciatore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

There has been little evolutionarily oriented empirical research on the intense, repetitive thoughts—ruminations—that often occur during grief. We used evolutionary theory to develop a new instrument for evaluating grief-related rumination titled the Bereavement Analytical Rumination Questionnaire (BARQ) operationalized by two dimensions: root cause analysis (RCA), the analysis of the cause of the loss; and reinvestment analysis (RIA), the analysis of how to reinvest time and effort in meaningful (presumably fitness enhancing) activities. We administered the BARQ to a sample of people seeking help for grief from non-profit organizations (619 completers) and tested several evolutionary predictions about grief-related rumination. The sample had several signs of severe grief, making it clinically relevant (sleep disturbances, chronicity, psychotropic drug use). Rumination was higher among antidepressant users, suggesting that rumination is related to depression. We also found evidence that grief-related rumination is modulated by circumstances (e.g., type of loss, age and gender of the participant, age of the deceased, traumatic death), which suggests adaptive regulation. Our most important results are consistent with inclusive fitness theory. Specifically, the pattern suggests that as people grow older, they spend less time ruminating about the causes of direct fitness losses (the loss of their own children), and they spend more time ruminating about the causes of indirect fitness losses (e.g., the loss of young non-parental, non-offspring relatives). We also found a sex or gender difference in grief-related rumination that is consistent with other evidence that women have a greater impact on the survival of close relatives (particularly, children and grandchildren), as well as evidence that women have more to lose with the loss of a close social partner. Overall, we found little support for the hypothesis that grief-related rumination is disordered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Antidepressants
  • Bereavement
  • Death of child
  • Grief
  • Rumination
  • Traumatic death

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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