Coping flexibility and complicated grief: A comparison of American and Chinese samples

Charles L. Burton*, Oscar H. Yan, Ruth Pat-Horenczyk, Ide S.F. Chan, Samuel Ho, George A. Bonanno

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Background The ability to process a death and the ability to remain optimistic and look beyond the loss are both thought to be effective means of coping with loss and other aversive events. Recently, these seemingly contrary dimensions have been integrated into the idea of coping flexibility. Methods In this study, we assessed the ability of married and bereaved individuals in the United States and Hong Kong to use both coping approaches as operationalized by the trauma-focused and forward-focused coping scales of a previously validated questionnaire. We also calculated a single flexibility score. Results Bereaved participants reported greater trauma-focused coping ability than did married participants. However, bereaved participants meeting criteria for complicated grief (CG) reported less forward-focused coping than both asymptomatic bereaved and married participants. The CG group also showed less overall coping flexibility than the asymptomatic bereaved and married groups. Country was not a factor. Conclusion Findings suggest that deficits in coping flexibility are indicative of pathology in bereaved individuals, and that this relationship extends across cultures. Limitations of the study and directions for future research are discussed. Depression and Anxiety 0:1-7, 2011.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)16-22
Number of pages7
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • coping skills
  • cross-cultural comparison
  • grief
  • life stress
  • social adjustment


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