Family bereavement and cultural diversity: a social developmental perspective


Family bereavement and cultural diversity: a social developmental perspective


Shapiro ER


Family Process




Humans; Cultural Diversity; Family Therapy; North America; Adaptation; Psychological; bereavement; Models; Attitude to Death/ethnology; SSHRC CURA; Family/ethnology/psychology; Acculturation


This article offers an integrative, interdisciplinary model of bereavement as a family developmental process that unfolds in cultural context. A critique of cultural assumptions highlights the culture-bound nature of prevailing North American practices, which view grief as an isolated individual experience and emphasize detachment from the dead as a way to promote recovery. Death and grief precipitate two kinds of family change, both guided by culture yet uniquely experienced and interpreted by individual families: 1) recreating the family without a key family member, but capable of coping with both existing and new tasks; and 2) incorporating the death into an ongoing but irrevocably altered family life-cycle developmental process. In supporting family change after a death, family therapists need to collaborate with grieving families in examining the goodness of fit between their unique circumstances and the bereavement expectations of their community and culture. Four case examples are presented, two of which will apply this social developmental model to emphasize transformations of attachment to the deceased--rather than detachment--that will support the ongoing family development of grieving families.


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Journal Article

Citation List Month



Shapiro ER, “Family bereavement and cultural diversity: a social developmental perspective,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed January 31, 2023,

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