Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Psychology, Clinical-Community

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Brian Vandenberg, PhD


Ann Steffen

Zoe Peterson

Thomas Meuser


Theoretical and empirical approaches to the study of meaning in bereavement suggest a distinction between meaning as sense-making, or the integration of the loss into a coherent and positive set of beliefs about world and self, and meaning as life significance, or the perception that some aspect of one's life experience “matters” in the wake of loss. Although several authors have pointed to the importance of life significance in grief recovery, currently no psychometrically valid measure exists. The present study examined the reliability and validity of a new measure: the Perceived Life Significance Scale (PLSS). The PLSS total score, as well as subscale scores, demonstrated acceptable inter-item reliability across samples. Exploratory factor analysis in a sample of community bereaved adults (N=353) suggested a three-factor structure, with subscales representing the active pursuit of valued goals (Active Life Significance), the experience of emptiness or insignificance (Negative Life Significance), and a passive receptivity to beauty or meaning in everyday life (Receptive Life Significance). This factor structure was confirmed in a sample of bereaved undergraduates (N=483). The PLSS demonstrated good convergent and discriminant validity in both samples, with stronger associations with other meaning measures than with measures of negative affect, depression, and grief intensity. A confirmatory joint factor analysis found support for the discriminant validity of the PLSS with respect to the World Assumptions Scale, a measure of meaning as sense-making. These results suggest the utility of the PLSS as a measure specific to meaning but discrepant from meaning as sense-making.

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