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The common assumption that emotional expression mediates the course of bereavement is tested. Competing hypotheses about the direction of mediation were formulated from the grief work and social-functional accounts of emotional expression. Facial expressions of emotion in conjugally bereaved adults were coded at 6 months post-loss as they described their relationship with the deceased; grief and perceived health were measured at 6, 14, and 25 months. Facial expressions of negative emotion, in particular anger, predicted increased grief at 14 months and poorer perceived health through 25 months. Facial expressions of positive emotion predicted decreased grief through 25 months and a positive but nonsignificant relation to perceived health. Predictive relations between negative and positive emotional expression persisted when initial levels of self-reported emotion, grief, and health were statistically controlled, demonstrating the mediating role of facial expressions of emotion in adjustment to conjugal loss. Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed.
In this article, we consider whether facial expressions of emotion relate in theoretically interesting ways to personal adjustment. We first consider the conceptual benefits of this line of inquiry. Then, to anticipate why brief samples of emotional behavior should relate to personal adjustment, we review evidence indicating that facial expressions of emotion correspond to intrapersonal processes and social outcomes. We then review studies showing that facial expressions relate in theoretically significant ways to adjustment after the death of a spouse, in long-term relationships, and in the context of chronic psychological disorders.
Ambivalence is widely assumed to prolong grief. To examine this hypothesis, the authors developed a measure of ambivalence based on an algorithmic combination of separate positive and negative evaluations of one's spouse. Preliminary construct validity was evidenced in relation to emotional difficulties and to facial expressions of emotion. Bereaved participants, relative to a nonbereaved comparison sample, recollected their relationships as better adjusted but were more ambivalent. Ambivalence about spouses was generally associated with increased distress and poorer perceived health but did not predict long-term grief outcome once initial outcome was controlled. In contrast, initial grief and distress predicted increased ambivalence and decreased Dyadic Adjustment Scale scores at 14 months postloss, regardless of initial scores on these measures. Limitations and implications of the findings are discussed.
Laughter facilitates the adaptive response to stress by increasing the psychological distance from distress and by enhancing social relations. To test these hypotheses, the authors related measures of bereaved adults' laughter and smiling 6 months postloss to measures of their (a) subjective emotion and dissociation from distress, (b) social relations, and (c) responses they evoked in others. Duchenne laughter, which involves orbicularis oculi muscle action, related to self-reports of reduced anger and increased enjoyment, the dissociation of distress, better social relations, and positive responses from strangers, whereas non-Duchenne laughter did not. Lending credence to speculations in the ethological literature, Duchenne laughter correlated with different intrapersonal and interpersonal responses than Duchenne smiles. Discussion focuses on the relevance of these findings to theories of positive emotion.
It has been widely assumed that emotional avoidance during bereavement leads to either prolonged grief, delayed grief, or delayed somatic symptoms. To test this view, as well as a contrasting adaptive hypothesis, emotional avoidance was measured 6 months after a conjugal loss as negative verbal-autonomic response dissociation (low self-rated negative emotion coupled with heightened cardiovascular activity) and compared with grief measured at 6 and 14 months. The negative dissociation score evidenced reliability and validity but did not evidence the assumed link to severe grief. Rather, consistent with the adaptive hypothesis, negative dissociation at 6 months was associated with minimal grief symptoms across 14 months. Negative dissociation scores were also linked to initially high levels of somatic symptoms, which dropped to a low level by 14 months. Possible explanations for the initial cost and long-term adaptive quality of emotional avoidance during bereavement, as well as implications and limitations of the findings, are discussed.