Date of Award

12-18-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Donald Reitzes

Second Advisor

Mathew Gayman

Third Advisor

Elisabeth Burgess

Fourth Advisor

Jung Ha Kim

Abstract

The death of a parent represents a potential traumatic life event that has been linked to depression in both Japan and the United States. Yet experiences surrounding death and ways of grieving are framed differently across cultures. At the individual level, the majority of the bereaved people in both Japan and the United States attempt to maintain bonds with the deceased family members. Being complementary to the individual-level desire, Japanese death-related beliefs and practices seem to provide a tool to maintain bonds. In contrast, American death-related beliefs and practices may be at odds with the individual desires by encouraging the bereaved individuals to detach themselves from the deceased parents. Japanese culture may work as a macro level support to bereaved individuals, while American culture is not supportive of the individual desires.

Using two national data sets from Japan and the United States, this study tested whether: (1) bereaved individuals report worse mental health than non-bereaved individuals, (2) the mental health consequences of losing a parent is greater in the United States than in Japan, and (3) in this vein, persons in Japan report greater emotional support than those in the United States, and emotional support explains cultural differences in the link between being bereaved and depression.

Supporting Hypothesis 1, bereaved respondents were more depressed than non-bereaved respondents. The statistical test rejected Hypothesis 2, and Hypothesis 3 was not testable. This research considers the role of culture as a macro-level support and cross-national research methods.

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