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Western Michigan University

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Dissertations Graduate College

4-1996

Perinatal Loss: An Exposure Based Approach to


Alleviating Feelings of Grief in Bereaved Parents
Michele Lee Rosa
Western Michigan University

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Rosa, Michele Lee, "Perinatal Loss: An Exposure Based Approach to Alleviating Feelings of Grief in Bereaved Parents" (1996).
Dissertations. Paper 1704.

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PERINATA L LOSS: AN EX PO SU RE BASED A PPRO A CH
TO ALLEVIATING FEELINGS O F G R IE F
IN BEREA V ED PARENTS

by

Michele Lee Rosa

A Dissertation
Submitted to the
Faculty of The Graduate College
in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the
D egree of D octor of Philosophy
D epartm ent of Psychology

W estern Michigan University


Kalamazoo, Michigan
April 1996

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PERIN A TA L LOSS: AN EX PO SU RE BASED APPRO A CH
TO ALLEVIATING FEELINGS O F G R IEF
IN BER EA V ED PARENTS

Michele Lee Rosa, Ph.D.

W estern Michigan University, 1996

The efficacy of exposing bereaved parents to stimuli associated with their

deceased child as a means of alleviating their grief reaction was explored. Three

parents who had suffered a perinatal loss participated. Pre, post, and follow-up

measures of depression, hopelessness, anxiety, marital functioning, daily stress,

psychopathology, bereavem ent and grief were gathered.

Results showed clinically significant improvement for two of the three sub

jects on measures of depression and psychopathology. All subjects showed im

proved marital functioning. Negative change was seen on a measure of hopeless

ness for two of the three subjects. The treatm ent effects for symptoms of stress,

anxiety, bereavem ent and grief were mixed. Subjective reports from the parents

provided support for the utility of the intervention. Implications for medical and

mental health care providers involved in the care of parents following a perinatal

loss are discussed.

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UMI Number: 9623734

Copyright 1996 by
Rosa, Michele Lee

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Copyright by
Michele Lee Rosa
1996

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DED ICA TIO N

In loving memory of

Anthony J. Giacomo
(1902-1996)

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank the many who contributed to the completion of this

dissertation. First, to the members of my committee, Drs. M. Michele Burnette,

Galen Alessi, Patricia Meinhold, and Kevin Armstrong. I extend my sincere

appreciation for their guidance and support.

Second, to my immediate family members who continuously provided both

emotional and monetary support, as well as encouragement: my father, Charles

M. Rosa; my m other, D olores A. Rosa (Giacomo); and my younger sister, Gina

M. Rosa. I thank my entire extended family for their willingness to share in my

educational experiences.

Third, to the faculty members at the Childrens Hospital of Michigan

(especially, Drs. M arcia Gilroy, A rthur Robin and Joseph Fischoff), The

University of Oklahoma H ealth Sciences Center (especially, Dr. C. Eugene

W alker) and The Childrens Hospital of Oklahoma (especially, Drs. H eather

Huszti and R uphert Nitschke), I thank you for your encouragement and

permission to collect dissertation data while also completing my internship and

fellowship requirements.

Finally, I thank my high school English teacher, Ms. M aureen Carney

(Sauber). Because of her dedication to teaching and her insistence that students

write properly, with organization and with style, I have had to endure minimal

criticism of my writing abilities.

Michele Lee Rosa


ii

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

ACKNOW LEDGM ENTS .................................................................................... ii

LIST O F T A B L E S .......................................................................................................v

LIST O F F IG U R E S ................................................................................................... vi

CH APTER

I. IN T R O D U C T IO N .........................................................................................1

Causes of Perinatal L o s s ..................................................................... 1

The Impact of Perinatal Loss ............................................................3

Treatm ent Is s u e s ..................................................................................10

II. M E T H O D ..................................................................................................... 19

Subjects ........................................................... 19

Characteristics and History ....................................................... 19

Recruitment ................................................................................. 20

Setting .................................................................................................. 20

M ate ria ls.........................................................................................21

P ro c e d u re ..............................................................................................25

Design ........................................................................................... 25

Experimental S e ssio n s.................................................................25

F o llo w -u p ...................................................................................... 27

Scoring and A n a ly sis.......................................................................... 27

III. R E S U L T S ..................................................................................................... 30

iii

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Table of Contents-Continued

CHAPTER

D e p re s s io n ........................................................................................... 30

H opelessness.........................................................................................31

Psychopathology ..................................................................................32

Daily S tre ss .............................................................................33

M aternal Bereavement ......................................................................33

Grief ..................................................................................................... 36

A n x ie ty ...................................................................................................37

M arital Relations ............................................................................... 38

S U D S -L e v el....................................................... . ....................... . . . 4 0

Participant R eport .............................................................................42

IV. D IS C U S S IO N ............................................................................................45

APPENDICES

A. Self-Experiences Questionnaire .............................................................. 49

B. Structured In terv iew .................................................................................... 53

C. H um an Subjects Institutional Review Board Approval ..................... 55

B IB L IO G R A P H Y ..................................................................................................... 59

iv

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LIST O F TABLES

1. Summary of Subjective D ata ........................ 43

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LIST O F FIGU RES

1. Scores on Beck Depression Inventory ...................................................... 30

2. Scores on Beck Hopelessness S c a l e ........................................................... 31

3. Scores on SCL-90-R ...................................................................................... 32

4. Scores on Daily Stress Inventory ................................................................ 34

5. Scores on Perinatal Bereavement Scale(M others O n ly ) .......................... 35

6. Scores on Perinatal G rief S c a l e .................................................................. 36

7. Scores on Self-Evaluation Questionnaire - Form Y -l ............................. 37

8. Scores on Dyadic Adjustment S c a l e ........................................................... 39

9. Scores on Dyadic Adjustment Subscales - Subject # 1 ................... 39

10. Scores on Dyadic Adjustment Subscales - Subject # 2 ................... 40

11. Subjective Units of Disturbance - Subject # 1 .................................. 41

12. Subjective U nits of Disturbance - Subject # 2 .................................. 41

13. Subjective Units of Disturbance - Subject # 3 .................................. 42

vi

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CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION

Numerous scientists have written about attachment, loss and grief pro

cesses (Bowlby, 1977,1980; Kubler-Ross, 1970; Lindeman, 1944). M ore specific,

the literature has been growing with respect to the psychological adjustment of

individuals experiencing loss and grief subsequent to fetal and neonatal demise.

As defined by the National C enter for H ealth Statistics (1993), a fetal death is the

death of a fetus between 20 and 40 weeks gestation or the death of a fetus weigh

ing over 500 grams; a neonatal death is the death of any infant bom alive who

survives less than one month. The National Center for H ealth Statistics (1993)

reported over 30,000 fetal deaths and over 23,000 neonatal deaths p er 4,111,000

live births. Within the research arena, fetal deaths, miscarriages, stillbirths and

neonatal deaths have been grouped and term ed "perinatal losses" (Callahan,

Brasted & Granados, 1983; Hopkins-Hutti, 1988). Hence, the term "perinatal"

will be used throughout the rem ainder of this paper.

Causes of Perinatal Loss

Correlational research has shed some light on the potential causes of peri

natal demise. Hamilton (1984) interviewed women who had suffered an infant

death regarding their exposure to radiation. The results indicated a higher rate

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of stillbirths in women reporting exposure to radiation. Savitz (1989) also inter

viewed parents who had experienced the death of an infant (generally stillbirths)

about their exposure to pesticides and radiation. The results, like those of

H am iltons indicated that women who had reported exposure to some form of

radiation (e.g., X-ray) during their pregnancy had higher rates of stillbirth than

did those women who did not report any exposure to radiation. In addition,

although maternal exposure to pesticides did not indicate a trend, paternal expo

sure to pesticides was associated with higher rates of stillbirth.

Prager (1984) investigated maternal report of smoking and drinking (i.e.,

alcohol) behavior during pregnancy. Results of this study indicated higher rates

of stillbirth and infants who w ere small-for-gestational-age associated with smok

ing behaviors during pregnancy while no increase in stillbirth was associated with

alcohol use. Noteworthy is the fact that women who smoked prior to pregnancy

w ere less likely to decrease or quit the behavior during pregnancy than were

women who drank during pregnancy. In other words, the mothers in this study

reported abstaining from alcohol use or greatly reducing their intake during preg

nancy while their reported engagement in smoking behaviors remained relatively

unchanged; such occurrences may help to account for the lack of incidence of

stillbirth related to alcohol use alone.

A 1986 study by P orter found no correlation between stillbirth and m ater

nal use of oral contraception, spermicide, Bendectin or antibiotics prior to (within

2 months) and during pregnancy. Again, data was collected via interviewing

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women, retrospectively, regarding their use of such products. In order to increase

validity, the author did include pharmacy records with regards to when prescrip

tions for Bendectin, oral contraception, and antibiotics were filled; however, the

researchers did not confirm whether or not the prescribed medication was actually

taken. Interestingly, Bendectin has since been taken off the m arket due to causal

trends associated with its use and birth defects.

In general, causes of perinatal death have been attributed to toxic envi

ronmental factors occurring during pregnancy or attributed to "unknown" causes.

Perinatal deaths preceded by entanglements in the umbilical cord, asphyxia, low

birth weight, intrauterine growth retardation (IU G R ) and the like are explained

as having occurred due to toxic environmental factors, yet no explanation is avail

able of the mechanisms by which such factors lead to these complications in the

pregnancy. Education, proper prenatal care and proper feeding of preterm and

low birth weight infants has been the primary mode of attempts to reduce the

occurrences of perinatal loss.

The Impact of Perinatal Loss

The impact of perinatal loss on the mother, father, marital dyad and sib

lings has been best articulated and most thoroughly formulated within the

behavioral and traditional psychoanalytical orientations. Condon (1986) asserts

that perinatal loss may be m ore traumatic than, for example, the loss of an elderly

relative due to the unique psychobiological environment in which it occurs, the

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complex psychological characteristics of the identity of the lost object, and the

sociocultural definition and meaning of the loss. Individuals experiencing the

death of an elderly relative do not have the psychobiological entanglements of

pregnancy to complicate their grief process. In addition, a deceased elderly rela

tive is "alive in memory" as real and as experienced; individuals are able to vividly

rem em ber activities with their relative, and the feel and smell of their relative.

The survivor is able to realize and account for a fulfilled life (i.e., the relative

lived, married, had children, worked, saw grandchildren, etc.) whereas the family

experiencing a perinatal loss is grieving the loss of fantasized wishes, hopes and

dreams; with the exception o f the fetal movements, the m other has nothing con

crete by which to characterize her childs identity. Lastly, many, if not all

researchers (e.g., Cullberg, 1972; Giles, 1970; Kellner, 1981; Kennell, 1970;

Kirkley-Best, 1982; Leon, 1992; Theut, 1988) point to the need for prolonged

social support from families and friends as aiding the grief process for individuals

experiencing a perinatal loss. Unfortunately, society has very different expecta

tions of how or if grief should be displayed and for how long a duration when the

loss is an elderly relative versus a fetus or newborn.

Leon (1992) presents a multi-model conceptualization of the impact of per

inatal loss as it differs from other losses. Steeped heavily in traditional psycho

analytical theory, Leon asserts an objects-relations model, a developmental

model, a narcissistic model and a drive-theory model explaining such differences.

Pregnancy as a new developmental stage creates an arena in which

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individuals must prepare for parenthood. In doing so, individuals identify with

earlier conflicts and develop a new organization of their personality. Leon (1992)

parallels the developmental process which occurs during pregnancy to that which

occurs during adolescence. Perinatal loss creates an additional crisis in an already

vulnerable developmental phase. Further, perinatal loss disrupts the developmen

tal phase and may cause one to withdraw from the activities usually associated

with childbearing peers. Hence, a unique sense of isolation plagues the grief sub

sequent to a perinatal loss.

Leons (1992) drive model defines the grief of perinatal loss as unique to

other deaths in that it creates psychosexual conflicts. Powerful m aternal needs

to hold, feed, and care for the child are left unfulfilled. Hence, bereavem ent may

be confounded by previously unresolved Oedipal conflicts and separation-

individuation issues.

From an object-relations model, Leon (1992) defines pregnancy not only

as the creation o f a new child, but also as the revitalization of all parental rela

tionships. Hence, resolution o f grief subsequent to a perinatal loss requires griev

ing the child who had died as well as reexperiencing and/or resolving any previous

conflicts within the relationship with ones own parents.

Leons (1992) narcissism model defines the fetus much m ore as a physical

part of the m others self than as an individual. Additionally, through pregnancy,

females fulfill narcissistic ambitions (e.g., creation, power, sense of immortality).

H ence, resolution of the perinatal loss is complicated by increased narcissism

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associated with pregnancy. According to Leon, underlying shame, inferiority and

helplessness replace the sense of infallibility pregnancy typically secures.

Brasted and Callahan (1984) and Callahan, Brasted and Grandos (1983)

articulate the behavioral theory regarding the impact of perinatal death versus the

death of an elderly relative as a non-normative life event which sensitizes the indi

vidual to death rather than promoting adaptation to death, which normative life

events function to do. Generally, individuals experience expected, distant deaths

throughout their life. For example, people experience the death of a great-aunt,

then a grandparent, then the death of their parent, etc. These deaths are de

scribed as normative and function to prom ote adaptation to the death experience.

Perinatal death is unexpected and out of the sequence of normative life events.

Perinatal death is described as non-normative and serves to sensitize the indi

vidual rather than prom ote adaptation. Events which serve sensitization functions

present as more traumatic in symptomatology.

The psychological adjustment of individuals experiencing a perinatal loss

can be greatly affected by not only its unique grief process but also by premorbid

personality characteristics and previous experiences with loss. Although the re

search regarding personal historical factors and their effects upon ones response

to perinatal loss are scant, Lindemann (1944) asserted that individuals with obses

sive personalities and histories of depression are m ore likely to experience

chronic, morbid grief. Additionally, case studies presented by Jureidini (1993)

suggest that obstetric complications can contribute to the genesis of Munchausen

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Syndrome By Proxy (MSBP) through unresolved grief, secondary to perinatal

bereavement. In a study by Hunfeld, Wladimiroff, Verhage and Passchier (1995),

41 women who had suffered a perinatal loss secondary to a prenatal lethal

anomaly were interviewed at two to six weeks after the diagnosis and again at

three months after the perinatal loss. The researchers were interested in the

womens level of previous stress (defined by history of m ajor life events, receipt

of professional mental health treatm ent, and disposition for feelings of inadequacy

and anxiety) and acute psychological defense reactions to the diagnosis. Hunfeld

et al. (1995) found that inadequacy was the most strongly positive predictor of

perinatal grief at both the time of diagnosis and at three months post loss.

Additionally, having received mental health service in the past predicted signif

icantly m ore intense grief shortly after diagnosis. With regards to previous exper

iences with loss, the research is mixed. Giles (1970) and Dyregrov & Matthiesen

(1987) did not find any correlation between maternal functioning and previous

miscarriages, while Theut (1989, 1990) found correlates between early and late

losses with respect to increased dysfunction in the former.

The experience of perinatal demise and the subsequent bereavem ent reac

tion is nearly universally acknowledged to be associated with somatic distress,

guilt, hostility, preoccupations, depression and fatigue (Cullberg, 1972; Dyregrov

& Matthiesen, 1987; Giles, 1970; Hughes & Page-Leiberman, 1989; Kennell et al.,

1970; Peppers & Knapp, 1980; Raphael-Leff, 1991). However, research indicates

that paternal, maternal and even sibling reactions to perinatal loss may differ with

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regard to severity, duration and the placem ent of blame.

Dyregrov & M atthiesen (1987) found that within a nonclinical sample

fathers reported their feelings at the time of the loss to be "sad" and to last for,

"a month or so" while mothers reported intense loneliness and feelings of empti

ness for up to a year. Similarly, Vance, Najman, Thearle, Embelton, Foster and

Boyle (1995) found that while maternal levels of anxiety and depression remained

significantly higher than that of controls at two and eight months following an

infant death from Sudden Infant D eath Syndrome (SIDS), a neonatal death, or

a stillbirth, the levels of paternal symptoms were far less evident eight months

post-loss. Hughes and Page-Leiberman (1989) queried fathers regarding the exis

tence of m other-father grief process differences and found that 69% of the sub

jects were able to identify that differences between their and their spouses grief

process did exist. Fathers indicated that their wives wanted to continually talk

about the loss while they preferred to focus on other issues. Others indicated that

they perceived the death as having not been preventable and viewing the hospital

as least supportive while their wives felt responsible for the death and viewed

family and friends as least supportive. Instruments such as the Beck Depression

Inventory (BDI), the Perinatal Grief Scale (PGS), the Perinatal Bereavement

Scale (PBS), the State-Trait Anxiety Scale (STAT) and the Impact of Events

Scale (IES) have shown elevated scores for mothers yet elevated scores for fathers

is not common (Cullberg, 1972; Lasker and Toeder, 1981; Theut, 1989, 1990).

Lastly, Miron and Chapman (1994) investigated m ens experiences with

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miscarriage and identified four sequential phases of adjustment which differed

from a six phase process pu t forth by Swanson-Kaufmann (1986) regarding

womens experiences with miscarriage.

Hypotheses as to why the aforementioned gender differences exist focus

on the differences which occur after the couple leaves the hospital as well as upon

societal factors. Traditionally, fathers return to their place of employment and

have very little time to brood upon the event while m others remain at home,

indefinitely or for an extended period to recover, both physically and emotionally

and have extended periods of "free time" to think, process and brood upon the

details of the loss. In addition, maternal feelings of guilt surrounding feelings of

responsibility for the loss have no parallel within the paternal grief process -

mothers feel responsible because the child was inside their physical person. Alter

natively and in accordance with societal norms, men may block the deep emo

tional feelings associated with grief and loss and substitute a "take-charge" attitude

in efforts to make everything alright for their wives. Notably, the men in Miron

and Chapmans (1994) study identified their primary role as that of supporter to

their partner.

Sibling reactions to perinatal loss have been virtually unexplored and no

systematic, qualitative research exists (Leon, 1986). Sibling reactions are often

that of confusion, fear, anxiety (generally of the separation type), somatic com

plaints and sadness. Leon (1986) presents four constellations of sibling reaction

to perinatal death: "I killed the baby", "Mommy killed the baby", "I could die,

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too" and "I will replace the baby". Siblings dealing with the loss as typified by the

first constellation generally believe that their ambivalence and/or jealousy towards

a new sister/brother caused the death. Typical symptoms include anxiety, somatic

complaints and sadness. Siblings dealing with the loss as typified by the second

constellation are usually the youngest of siblings and they generally believe that

their m other must have killed the baby because their world and everything which

happens in it is controlled by their parents. Typical symptoms include fear of the

parents and confusion. Siblings dealing with the loss as typified by the third con

stellation generally experience nightmares, separation anxiety and regression (e.g.,

failure to use toilet skills, thum b sucking). Siblings dealing with the loss as

typified by the last constellation generally want to relieve parental grief; in doing

so, these children experience anxiety and fear.

Treatm ent Issues

Several researchers have described treatm ent models for grief work from

behavioral (Callahan & Burnette, 1989; Ramsey, 1979), psychoanalytic (Condon,

1986; Leon, 1987), and supportive (Kellner et al., 1981; Kirkley-Best, 1982;

LaRoche, 1982) perspectives. In addition, H arr and Thistlethwaite (1990) de

scribed various creative therapies (e.g., stoiytelling, journaling, bibliotherapy, color

inventory, clay-modeling, posturing, and storyboarding) for the resolution of com

plicated and uncomplicated bereavement. Although no one treatm ent m ethod has

been systematically found to be of greater efficacy than another in the treatm ent

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of bereavem ent (Condon, 1986), each has its strengths and weaknesses. The

behavioral therapies (e.g., flooding, exposure, systematic desensitization) require

fewer sessions than the psychoanalytic therapies (even short-term psychoanalytic

therapy). The behavioral therapies, however, may initially cause the individual

m ore intense feelings of discomfort than would psychoanalytic therapies. The cre

ative therapies provide greater insight into potential areas of conflict rather than

providing actual resolution o f the conflict issues.

It has been found that psychological recovery is not as good in individuals

whose grief is denied display, especially if they do not belong to a united family,

feel that they have nothing left to live for, or can not fit their loss into a secure

"* religious or philosophical background (Covill, 1968, cited in Giles, 1970; Editorial,

1967; Maddison & Walker, 1967). Related, LaRoche, Lalinec-Michaud, Engels-

mann, Fuller, Copp, McQuade-Soldatos and Azima (1984) found that Beck

Depression Inventory (BDI) scores were significantly correlated with seeing and

touching the baby after death whereas the Mourning Scale scores did not show

such a correlation. LaRoche et al. (1984) indicate that such a phenomenon sug

gests that women grieve w hether or not they see and hold the baby but that

depression is m ore likely to occur in women who do not have physical contact

with the baby. Hence, exposure to stimuli associated with a loss is thought to be

the critical ingredient in overcoming pathological grieving (Callahan & Burnette,

1989). However, two controlled attempts (Mawson, Marks, Ramm & Stern, 1981;

Sireling, Cohen & Marks, 1988) to prove the importance of exposure to grief

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stimuli have not conclusively demonstrated that importance.

Sireling et al. (1988) replicated the 1981 study by Mawson et al. In both

studies, patients with morbid grief reactions subsequent to the loss of an attach

m ent figure (e.g., parent, spouse, adult child) were randomly assigned to either

guided mourning or antiexposure treatm ent groups with corresponding between-

session homework. Patients in the guided mourning group were encouraged to

expose themselves repeatedly to avoided cognitive, affective and behavioral cues

concerning bereavement (e.g., writing a letter to the deceased and reading it

aloud at the grave site; ventilation of negative feelings; facing avoided and/or dis

tressing situations, objects, or people reminding them of the deceased). With the

antiexposure group, the approach taken with the bereaved by many medical and

lay persons was formalized for evaluation by encouraging patients to get on with

living, not to think about the loss, to avoid anything painful connected with the

loss, and to think about the future rather than dwell on the past.

Sireling et al. (1988) modified the Mawson et al. (1981) design in the

following ways:

1. Instead of six sessions over two weeks, the replication study had 10 ses

sions over 14 weeks.

2. Both the exposure and antiexposure groups had m ore systematic ad

vice, support, and help concerning relationships, work and leisure activities than

in the original study.

3. To the avoided bereavem ent cues used in the original study, Sireling

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et al. added affective and cognitive cues such as anger, guilt, and painful

memories and ruminations.

4. To self-assessments, Sireling et al. added a blind assessor and a

broader range of measures.

5. Follow-up in the replication was nine months rather than five months

post treatment.

6. The replication m ade use of cue cards to monitor and rate homework

together with ratings of compliance between and within sessions.

Both studies showed improvement posttreatm ent and follow-up, but avoid

ance and distress to bereavement cues improved m ore in guided mourning than

in antiexposure cases. On other measures, guided mourning yielded only margin

ally m ore benefit, gains in these areas being partly independent of reduced avoid

ance of bereavement cues (Sireling et al., 1988). However, the outcome of the

two aforementioned studies were confounded with procedural flaws. There was

subject violation of researcher instructions, differences in pre- versus post

treatm ent assessment methods and the unintentional and uncontrolled phenom ena

of the "antiexposure" instructions serving a paradoxical function whereby the sub

je c ts ) actually increase their contact with the stimuli associated with the loss

(Callahan & Burnette, 1989).

According to Giles (1970), who interviewed 40 women who had just lost

babies in the perinatal period, although doctors treated the womens physical

symptoms and prescribed sedatives liberally, in about half the cases the physicians

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avoided discussing the death o f the baby. Giles (1970) asserted that the women

needed a sympathetic listener and reassuring explanations to remove misconcep

tions and guilt and to provide confidence for future pregnancies.

Although the role of exposure to grief stimuli remains unclear, experienc

ing perinatal death and the subsequent grief reaction remains a crisis for many

individuals. LaRoche et al. (1984) offered 30 mothers who had experienced a

perinatal death crisis intervention aimed at facilitating their grief process at a few

days, three weeks and three months after the loss. The mothers participated in

three one-hour interview sessions and completed various self-rating scales (i.e.,

Life Events Schedule, Beck Depression Inventory and a Mourning Scale); assess

ments of grief reactions were based on the criteria of Parks and Lindemann.

Following the three assessment sessions, the mothers grieving behavior was classi

fied as either an "Appropriate Grief Reaction" (A G R) or an "Inappropriate Grief

Reaction" (IG R ); an IG R was overly intense, shallow or absent as compared to

an AG R. O ne to two years following the perinatal loss, the m others were again

interviewed to assess for functioning as related to psychological adaptation, rela

tionships to spouses, family and friends as well as the degree of satisfaction with

hospital services and care, and attitudes toward future pregnancies. LaRoche and

colleagues found that six of the 30 mothers showed IGRs at the three week and

three m onth assessment. By the long term follow up, only one of those six dis

played depression or another psychiatric disorder. Three other mothers not iden

tified as high risk candidates by the three month evaluation developed high BDI

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scores and clinical depressions at the one to two year assessment. Assessment of

the presence of mourning in all the subjects as measured by the Mourning Scale

confirms the findings of other studies and implies that a substantial degree of

bonding precedes tactile contact between m other and child (LaRoche et al.,

1984). In addition, the relatively low BDI scores and low incidence of

pathological variants of grief may indicate the usefulness of therapeutic interven

tion with this population (LaRoche et al., 1984).

The current trend in the mental health care system is to successfully treat

individuals using the least num ber of sessions while expending the least amount

of dollars. In addition, systematic examinations of the clinical treatm ent interven

tions employed to reduce and eliminate the symptoms of a grief reaction have

been inconclusive. Given the current demand for the availability of psychological

treatm ent services for couples/individuals experiencing a perinatal loss and the

m ental health care system trend, the behaviorally oriented treatm ent methods,

with their tradem ark of therapeutic success within a limited number o f sessions,

appear to be best suited for investigation.

Historically, exposure treatm ent strategies have warranted a basis of solid

empirical research regarding their efficacy. According to Masters, Burish, Hollon

and Rimm (1987), in the 1970s there was an increase in reports of exposure pro

cedures and their effectiveness in treating a variety of disorders, such as phobias

(Yule, Sacks, & Hersov, 1974), anxiety neurosis (Girado, 1974), Post Traumatic

Stress D isorder (PTSD) (Black & Keane, 1982), obsessive-compulsive behavior

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(Hackman & McLean, 1975), agitated depression (Hannie & Adams, 1974), psy

chogenic urinary retention (Glasgow, 1975), somatic complaints (Stambaugh,

1977) and social withdrawal in children (Kandel, Ayllon & Rosenbaum, 1977).

Throughout the perinatal loss literature, many of the above stated symptoms (e.g.,

depression, anxiety and fear) are repeatedly reported by individuals experiencing

such a loss.

According to Marks (1987), the exposure principle is the process by which

continued exposure to stimuli that evoke distress results in habituation and extinc

tion of innate and acquired fear, anxiety or distress. The exact mechanisms by

which exposure reduces distress may differ across diagnoses depending on what

type of stimuli are being avoided. The mechanisms at work in resolving grief sub

sequent to perinatal loss are hypothesized to be as follows. Bereaved individuals

avoid talking about the death, perhaps for years, because of the subjective and/or

objective distress produced by such verbal exchanges and/or because family and

friends avoid listening to them because of the distressful nature of the content.

Hence, bereaved individuals and potential listeners learn to escape the distress by

withdrawing or changing the conversation topic and the verbal content thus re

tains its conditioned emotional response values. With exposure-based treatment,

the individual is instructed to speak of the death, the deceased, etc. to a therapist

trained to listen whenever the individual is ready to talk and who continually redi

rects the verbal exchange on the topic until the patient becomes calm. Hence,

escape (Sr-: negative reinforcement or relief) is contingent upon being able to talk

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about the relevant issues with decreasing distress, rather than avoiding the topic

as in the past. Alessi (1992) describes "analog verbal conditioning" whereby ver

bal behavior conditions neutral verbal stimuli as conditioned emotional stimuli.

Therefore, the mechanisms at play which allow the bereaved individual to experi

ence decreased distress while engaged in verbal dialogue may include "analog ver

bal conditioning" (e.g., reframing), habituation to the conditioned emotional re

sponses associated with key verbal stimuli as well as learned coping responses

(e.g., relaxation); all such mechanisms help the patient stay with the topic, m oder

ate the distress level, and not withdraw from the conversation.

The current study assessed both individual and marital adjustment to and

resolution of the grief reaction subsequent to a perinatal death. D ata was col

lected prior to, during, and following an exposure based treatm ent intervention.

It was hypothesized that the clinical procedure of exposing bereaved individuals

to imaginal, in vivo, and verbal stimuli associated with a loss would serve multiple

functions. First, an exposure based treatm ent protocol may serve to validate a

loss often construed by society not to be "real". Second, the treatm ent sessions

may provide an opportunity for the bereaved to "work through" issues yet unre

solved and/or denied. Overall, it was hypothesized that post- and follow-up

assessment scores of depression, marital discord, daily stress, and bereavement

would be lower as compared to baseline measures. Given that the systematic

study of treatm ent methodologies aimed at reducing the symptoms of bereave

m ent in individuals subsequent to a perinatal loss is limited, this study may benefit

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the literature not only by clarifying the importance of exposure to stimuli associ

ated with the loss, but also by serving to advance the literature regarding an

appropriate, effective and brief treatm ent intervention specific for grief reactions

subsequent to a perinatal loss.

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CHAPTER II

M ETHOD

Subjects

Characteristics and History

T hree individuals (1 m ale and 2 females) served as volunteer subjects. The

m ean subject age was 39 years (range 36 years and 6 months - 43 years and 8

months). Subjects num ber one and two were married to each other and had a

m arked history of infertility. The couples loss of interest for purposes of this

study was a stillborn male (35 weeks gestation); the loss occurred two years and

eight months prior to their participation. Following the stillbirth, the couple also

suffered a miscarriage (nine weeks gestation). The couple had no living children.

Subject num ber three was married; however, her spouse was not eligible for par

ticipation in the study because he was not the father of the deceased child. Sub

ject num ber three did not have a history of conception complications and the loss

of interest for purpose of this study was a male child born at 28 weeks gestation;

the loss occurred 16 years and three months prior to her participation. The sub

ject had not been told of the cause of death, nor did she know if the child had

been bom alive. The subject had two subsequent pregnancies which produced

two living male children (8 years, 6 years); no further perinatal losses occurred.

19

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Both female subjects were pharmacologically treated for a period of one week

with Valium or Tylenol-3 following their loss. All subjects had participated in a

local perinatal loss support group and subjects one and two received individual

psychotherapy for six to eight months following their loss.

Recruitment

Subjects were recruited via a mass mailing of an informational invitation

to local OB/GYN physicians, advertisement in local newspapers, and a mass mail

ing of an informational invitation to local perinatal loss support groups. Volun

teers who evidenced psychotic features and/or those who used antidepressant and/

or antianxiety medication did not qualify for participation. The second exclusion

criterion was included based upon the theory that antianxiety and antidepressant

medications may interfere with the individuals abilities to fully experience the

exposure-based treatm ent approach. One volunteer was excluded due to this cri

terion.

Setting

The initial interview, three subsequent experimental sessions, and the post

assessment session (one-week follow-up) were held in the outpatient clinic of

Childrens Hospital of Michigan D epartm ent of Child Psychiatry and Psychology

within the D etroit Medical Center. During sessions, only the researcher and one

subject was present. Baseline and follow-up questionnaires were completed in the

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21
subjects homes.

Materials

The areas of interest in this study were individual and marital adjustment

to and resolution of the grief reaction subsequent to a perinatal loss. Question

naires used during this study included the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), the

Daily Stress Inventory (DSI), the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS), the Self-

Evaluation Questionnaire (Form Y -l), the Symptom Checklist 90-Revised (SCL-

90-R), the Perinatal Bereavement Scale (PBS), The Perinatal G rief Scale - short

version (PGS), the Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS), and the Self-Experiences

Questionnaire (Appendix A). Additionally, subjects participated in a structured

interview (Appendix B).

The BDI is a 21-item instrument designed to assess the severity of de

pressed moods in adolescents and adults. Internal consistency estimates based

upon Cronbachs coefficient alpha for the mixed, single-episode major depression,

recurrent-episode major depression, and dysthymic patients were .86, .80, .86, and

.79 respectively. The range of Pearson product-moment correlations between pre

test and posttest administrations of the BDI for varying time intervals for psychi

atric patients ranged from .48 to .86, whereas the test-retest correlations of non

psychiatric patients ranged from .60 to .90 (Beck & Steer, 1987).

The DSI (Brantley & Jones, 1989) is a 58-item instrument which measures

the num ber and relative impact (7-point scale) of common minor stressors

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frequently experienced in everyday life. The DSI provides a current measure of

stress over a 24-hour period and can be administered serially over several days or

weeks. The DSI yields three basic scores: (1) the Event score - the num ber of

items rated as having occurred that day; (2) the Impact score - the sum of the

impact rating values assigned to each item; and (3) the I/E Ratio - the average

impact rating for the day, calculated by dividing the Im pact score by the Event

score. The I/E Ratio score was used for purposes of this study. Alpha coeffi

cients of internal consistency w ere calculated for the Event and Impact measures

but not for the I/E Ratio because it is a composite of the Event and Impact

scores. Coefficients were .83 and .87 for Event and Im pact scores, respectively.

Evidence for the concurrent validity of the DSI has been shown in studies of

three independent samples (Brantley, 1987a, 1987b; Brantley, Dietz, McKnight,

Jones, and Tully, 1988).

The DAS is a 36-item questionnaire designed to assess marital functioning

with regard to finances, recreation, religion, affection, goals, household tasks,

career, communication, and commitment. Items are rated on a 6-point scale from

"always agree" to "always disagree" or a 5-point scale from "every day" to "never".

O ther items are "yes/no" questions.

The Self-Evaluation Questionnaire (Form Y -l) is a 20-item questionnaire

designed to assess anxiety. Each item is rated on a 4-point scale from "not at all"

to "very much so" with regard to how anxious the individual feels at the moment

they are completing the questionnaire.

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T he SCL-90-R is a 90-item, self-report symptom inventory developed by

Leonard Degrogatis of Clinical Psychometric Research; it is designed primarily

to reflect the psychological symptom patterns of psychiatric and medical patients.

Each item is rated on a 5-point scale of distress (0-4). The instrument is scored

and interpreted in terms of nine primary symptom dimensions and three global

indices of distress. M easures of internal consistency for the nine dimensions

range betw een a low of .77 to a high of .90. Test-retest reliability measures hover

between .80 and .90 (Degrogatis, 1977).

The PBS is a 26-item instrument designed especially for the cited research

to m easure the bereavem ent of parents who have experienced a perinatal loss.

The PBS focuses on the thoughts and feelings (including sadness, guilt, anger, and

preoccupation with the loss) experienced by parents after a perinatal loss. Each

item is scored on a 4-point Likert scale. Although the items appear to have face

validity, no data have been reported on the validity and reliability of this

instrum ent (Theut, Zaslow, Rabinovich, Bartko and, Morihisa, 1990).

The PGS - short version is a 33-item scale developed to measure grief for

research on pregnancy loss (spontaneous abortion, ectopic pregnancy, fetal death,

and neonatal death) based upon the original 84-item 5-point Likert-type Perinatal

Grief Scale. The standardized alpha coefficient of the long versions is .97. Relia

bility analysis for each of the three subscales and the total scale of the short ver

sion is higher than .85. Test-retest reliability correlations between the first and

the second rounds for each of the three factors and for the total scale range from

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.59 to .66, all at a significance level of .001 (Potvin, Lasker, Toedter, 1989).

The BHS is a 20-item scale for measuring the extent o f negative attitudes

about the future (pessimism) as perceived by adolescents and adults. The BHS

maintains high internal consistency across seven clinical samples (suicide ideators,

suicide attempters, alcoholics, heroin addicts, single-episode M ajor Depression

Disorders, recurrent-episode Major Depression Disorders, and Dysthymic Dis

orders); the corresponding Kuder-Richardson reliabilities were .92, .93, .91, .82,

.92, .92, and .87, respectively. Pearson product-mom ent correlation between test-

retest scores ranged from .69 to .66 (p < .001). The BHS also maintains respec

table integrity across six aspects of validity: content, concurrent, discriminant,

construct, predictive and factorial (Beck & Steer, 1988).

The Self-Experiences Questionnaire was designed specifically for the pur

poses of this study. The questionnaire was used to gather subjective reports from

the subjects regarding somatic symptoms, social support and the utility of partici

pating in the study.

The structured interview was designed specifically for the purposes of this

study and was used to obtain information regarding subject characteristics, type

of pregnancy loss, history of conception complications, receipt of medical and psy

chological services and the characteristics of any living children.

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25
Procedure

Design

A single-case research design was used. Subjects provided baseline data

for a duration of two weeks prior to entering the one-week treatm ent phase. Sub

jective Units of Disturbance (SUDS) were taken at 15-minute intervals during the

three experimental sessions in an attem pt to assess "contact" with exposed stimuli.

Experimental Sessions

Subjects attend an initial interview and pre-assessment session, three exper

imental sessions, and a post-assessment session (one-week follow-up). Addition

ally, one-month follow-up data were collected through the mail. Each of the

three experimental sessions was time-limited to one hour; the other sessions

ended upon completion of the interview and questionnaires. All experimental

(i.e., exposure) sessions were conducted by the author under the supervision of

a fully licensed, Ph.D. level Clinical Psychologist with prior clinical experience

working with couples who have experienced a perinatal loss.

A fter the general purpose of the study was explained ("We are interested

in knowing how to better aid and support individuals who have experienced a per

inatal loss"), subjects signed an informed consent form and had the option of sign

ing a release of medical records form for their and/or their childs medical

records. Subjects then participated in the structured interview and completed the

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questionnaires. Subjects num ber two and three were also instructed to complete

their questionnaires in privacy and to avoid sharing and/or discussing their

responses. Subjects completed the Self-Experience Checklist and the BHS at the

initial interview, following the last treatm ent session and at follow-up only; the

Self-Experience Checklist and the BHS were not completed weekly.

Following a baseline period of two weeks, the subjects presented at the

clinic for the first of three experimental sessions. During the one-hour sessions,

the subjects were asked to engage in verbal dialogue with the researcher regarding

their experiences. Subjects discussed details surrounding their attempts to con

ceive, the pregnancy, the labor/delivery, the child, the funeral and their hopes,

dreams, expectations, and loss. Two subjects brought in articles of clothing, pic

tures and mementoes of the pregnancy and child. The third subject chose to sign

the release for medical records; however, relevant information and pictures were

not able to be used during experimental sessions because the subjects medical

records were never located by hospital personnel. In essence, the researcher

organized each of the exposure sessions so as to maximize verbal, imaginal and

in vivo exposure to stimuli associated with the loss. The three experimental ses

sions occurred within a one week span, with each session being at least one day

apart.

Within a week following the last experimental session, the subjects re

turned to the clinic for the post-assessment session. During this session, subjects

again completed the questionnaires. The researcher answered any questions the

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subject may have had and a list of community referrals for further mental health

services was provided. All subjects completed the experimental sessions and par

ticipated in a one-week follow-up.

Follow-up

O ne month following the last session, subjects were mailed a questionnaire

packet and asked to return the materials in an enclosed, confidential, self-

addressed, and stamped envelope. Subjects who failed to return the materials

within two weeks were contacted by phone on three separate occasions to prom pt

the return of the materials. Two subjects returned completed questionnaire

packets at the one-month follow-up. Despite having received the questionnaire

packet on three occasions and in contrast to her verbal report, subject num ber

three failed to return her one-month follow-up data.

Scoring and Analysis

The BD I is scored by summing the ratings for each o f the 21 items. The

final summation is then compared to a preestablished cut-off score (e.g., 0-9

normal/asymptomatic; 10-18 mild-moderate depression; 19-29 moderate-severe

depression; 30-63 extremely severe depression).

The DSI is scored by counting the number of items that received a rating

and entering this number in the "Event" space. An additional summation score

is calculated by summing the item ratings and entering that num ber in the

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"Impact" space. The "I/E Ratio" score is calculated by dividing the Impact score

by the Event score. The score(s) is then compared to a normative table in order

to determine the corresponding T-score and percentile. One-day administration,

one-week administration and multiweek administration methods are scored in the

same manner.

The SCL-90-R is scored by first transferring the 90 items scores from the

test paper to the profile sheet. Second, summed distress scores for each of the

nine symptom dimensions and the "additional" items of the instrument are calcu

lated by adding together all the non-zero distress scores from each item compris

ing the dimension. Third, each summed distress score is divided by its respective

num ber of items. Fourth, in order to calculate the three global indices one must

take a grand total of the summed distress scores for the nine dimensions and the

additional items. Dividing that score by 90 provides one with the Global Severity

Index (GSI). The next step involves counting the number of positive symptom re

sponses to arrive at the Positive Symptom Total (PST). By dividing the grand

total calculated in step four by the PST, the Positive Symptom Distress Index

(PSDI) is achieved. Once the raw dimension scores and globals are calculated,

they are referred to the appropriate norm table for conversion to standard T-

scores.

The PBS and the PGS are both scored by totaling the num ber of items en

dorsed and summing the rating level of each individual response.

The DAS is first scored according to the scoring key. There are separate

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weighted values for the DAS scoring and for the original Locke-Wallace scoring.

The obtained scores for items one through 32 are transferred to the DAS scoring

sheet for each partner. The points are then summed to obtain a subscale score.

The sum total of the four subscales gives the total DAS score.

The Self-Evaluation Questionnaire (form Y -l) is scored by simply adding

the weighted scores for the 20 items that make up each scale. Scores for both

forms can vary from a minimum of 20 to a maximum of 80. The raw score totals

for each form are then compared to normative data and the corresponding per

centile rank is determined.

The BHS is scored by summing the keyed responses of hopelessness for

each of the 20 items. Responses which indicate nonhopelessness receive a score

of zero and responses indicating hopelessness receive a score of one. The number

of hopelessness responses are totaled and the sum is indicated on the line

provided at the bottom of the questionnaire. The maximum score is 20. The

total is then compared to general guidelines for interpretation (0-3, normal range

or asymptomatic; 4-8 is mild; 9-14 is moderate; greater than 14 is severe).

The resulting data (i.e., changes in assessment scores) were graphed and

visually inspected for clinically significant change. The results are presented in

the following section.

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CH A PTER III

RESULTS

Depression

M easures of depressed mood, as assessed by the BDI, are shown in Figure

1. Subject one consistently reported a m oderate-severe level of depression during

the baseline, treatm ent and one-week follow-up phases. However, at the one-

m onth follow-up phase subject ones depression level had improved to within the

mild-moderate range.

Subject twos reported depression level was within normal limits at

20 - -

S 15 -- Subject 1

Subject 2
10 --
Subject 3

5 -

Baseline Treatment 1 Week F/U 1 Month F/U

Figure 1. Scores on Beck Depression Inventory.

30

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baseline, yet increased to within the mild-moderate range prior to the treatm ent

phase. However, subject twos level of depression improved and returned to

within normal limits during the treatm ent phase and remained within normal

limits throughout both follow-up phases.

Subject three reported a mild-moderate level of depression at baseline

which improved to within norm al limits prior to the treatm ent phase. Subject

threes depression rating rem ained within normal limits throughout the rem ainder

of the treatm ent and follow-up phases.

Hopelessness

Fre and post measures of hopelessness, as measured by the BHS are shown

in Figure 2. Subject one reported a m oderate level of hopelessness at baseline.

25 t

20 |
15
o
o Subject 1
CO A ~m ~

n Subject 2
10
Subject 3

o J 1----- 1--------1-------------- 1--------------1--------------1-------


Baseline 1 Week F/U 1 Month F/U

Figure 2. Scores on Beck Hopelessness Scale.

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32
Subject ones level of hopelessness worsened to within the severe range at both

follow-up phase ratings.

Subject two also reported a m oderate level of hopelessness at baseline.

However, in contrast to subject one, subject twos level of hopelessness signifi

cantly improved to within normal limits at the one-week follow-up phase and rose

slightly to within the mild range at the one-month follow-up.

Subject three reported a mild level of hopelessness at baseline which rose

to within the m oderate range at the one-week follow-up.

Psychopathology

M easures of psychological symptomatology, as assessed by the SCL-90-R,

are shown in Figure 3. Throughout all phases of the research, subject one

175 x
-80

150 -

125

100-

Subject 2
75--

50- - --60

25-- --50

--40

Figure 3. Scores on SCL-90-R.

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reported symptoms which w ere sufficient in frequency and severity to be indica

tive of clinically significant psychopathology. Subject ones T-scores were greater

than 80 at baseline, treatm ent and the one-week follow-up phases; his T-score was

75 at the one-month follow-up phase.

During the baseline phase, subject two reported symptoms which were at

or near the border of clinical significance (T=60; T =56). During the treatm ent

phase, subject twos reported symptomatology fell to within normal limits (T=40)

and continued to decline through the 1-week follow-up phase (T=37). Although

subject two reported an increase in symptomatology at the one-month follow-up

(T=51), her symptoms were still within normal limits and lower than baseline.

Subject three reported symptoms which were borderline significant (T=60)

at baseline and fell to within normal limits prior to and during the treatm ent

phase (T=50). However, subject threes symptomatology returned to a borderline

significant level (T =63) at the one-week follow-up.

Daily Stress

Measures of common and minor daily stressors, as assessed by the DSI are

shown in Figure 4. Throughout the baseline, treatm ent and one-week follow-up

phases, subject one experienced daily stressors which were sufficient in frequency

and impact to be clinically significant (T=74). A t the one-month follow-up,

subject one reported decreased experiences with daily stressors (T=65).

Throughout all phases of the research, subject twos experiences with daily

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34
80 T

70--

60- -

Subject 1

Subject 2

Subjects

20 --

10--

Baseline

Figure 4. Scores on Daily Stress Inventory.

stressors remained within norm al limits. Subject twos T-scores for baseline,

treatm ent, one-week follow-up and one-month follow-up phases were 51, 56,47,

48, and 46, respectively.

Subject three reported experiences with daily stressors which were

sufficient in frequency and impact to b e clinically significant at baseline (T = 74),

yet which fell to within norm al limits prior to the treatm ent phase (T =47) and

remained as such throughout the rem ainder of the research. Subject threes

T=scores for treatm ent and one-week follow-up phases were 45 and 50,

respectively.

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35
M aternal Bereavem ent

M easures of maternal bereavem ent, as assessed by the PBS are shown in

Figure 5. The PBS does n o t have preestablished cut-off scores with which to

define levels of bereavement. Both fem ale subjects evidenced elevated levels of

bereavement; however, subject three m aintained the same level of bereavem ent

throughout baseline, treatm ent and follow-up phases while subject two evidenced

a decrease in reported bereavem ent symptomatology during the treatm ent phase.

Subject twos improved bereavem ent status maintained throughout both follow-up

phases.

SO-

SO--

P 30 --
Subject 1(N/A)
20 -

Subject 2

10-- Subject 3

1 Month FAJ

Figure 5. Scores on Perinatal Bereavem ent Scale (M others Only).

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36
G rief

M easures of grief subsequent to a pregnancy loss and assessed by the PGS

are shown in Figure 6. Like th e PBS, the PGS does not have preestablished cut

off scores with which to define levels of grief. Subject one consistently endorsed

a majority of the items on th e PGS. Subject ones active grief process remained

elevated in symptomatology throughout baseline, treatm ent and follow-up phases.

Subject twos responses showed a mildly elevated grief process at baseline

which subsequently decreased in symptomatology during treatm ent and follow-up

phases.

Subject three reported virtually no symptoms representative of an active

grief process at baseline. Although the return of an incomplete questionnaire

25 T

20--

15 - -
Subject 1

Subject 2

Subject 3

5 --

1 Month F/U

Figure 6. Scores on Perinatal G rief Scale.

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37
prevented a measure of grief at the treatm ent phase, subject threes follow-up

m easure of grief is consistent w ith baseline measures.

Anxiety

M easures of state anxiety, as assessed by the Self-Evaluation Questionnaire

(Form Y -l) are shown in Figure 7. Subject ones state anxiety scores remained

high throughout all phases of th e research and ranged from the 91st to the 100th

percentile.

Subject two reported clinically significant levels of state anxiety at baseline

(87th percentile, 82nd percentile). H e r anxiety then decreased to within normal

limits during the treatm ent and one-week follow-up phases (50th percentile, 19th

80 T

60-

S 50 -
Subject 1

Subject 2

Subject 3

2 0 -

1 0 -

1 Month FAJ

Figure 7. Scores on Self-Evaluation Questionnaire - Form Y -l.

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percentile); however, the decrease in anxiety was not maintained at the one-

m onth follow-up phase (72nd percentile).

Subject threes data shows the most fluctuation. Ginically significant state

anxiety at baseline (89th percentile) fell to within normal limits prior to the treat

m ent phase (44th percentile). However, subject threes decreased anxiety was of

a brief duration; although not returning to the baseline level, measures of state

anxiety increased at treatm ent and one-week follow-up phases (68th percentile,

73rd percentile).

Marital Relations

M easures of dyadic adjustment, as assessed by the DAS are shown in

Figure 8. Four subscales comprise the DAS: Dyadic Consensus, Dyadic

Satisfaction, Affectional Expression and Dyadic Cohesion. High total scores on

the DAS are indicative of b etter dyadic adjustment; the maximum score is 151.

DAS scores from subject numbers one and two, who were m arried to each other

indicate a positive marital relationship. Additionally, both subjects reported

improved dyadic adjustment at the treatm ent and one-month follow-up phases.

Subjects one and two w ere married to each other during their participation

in the research; hence, a comparison of their subscale responses was possible.

The subscale profile for subjects one and two is shown in Figure 9 and Figure 10.

Subject ones response set shows virtually no change across all phases. However,

there is improved dyadic satisfaction at the one-month follow-up phase. Subject

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39
iso T

130 -
m
120 -

110 - -

100

2 90
o Subject 1
u 80
to
3 70" Subject 2
* SO
Subject 3
SO"

30
2 0 -

10 --

Treatment 1 WeekF/U

Figure 8. Scores on Dyadic Adjustm ent Scale.

50 -r

Dyadlc Consensus

Dyadic Satisfaction

20--
ANtetional Expression

Dyadic Cohesion

Figure 9. Scores on Dyadic A djustm ent Subscales - Subject # 1 .

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40
00 t

50- -

40

Dyadle Coniontua

Dyadic Satisfaction
30--

Affactkmat Btpranlon
-o -
Dyadie Cohesion

10- -

Figure 10. Scores on Dyadic Adjustm ent Subscales - Subject #2.

twos response set shows virtually no change across all phases.

Although the DAS scores from subject three indicate a troubled marital

relationship throughout all phases of the research, dyadic adjustment was

improved from that assessed a t baseline at all subsequent phases. Subject threes

spouse was not eligible for participation in the research; hence, a comparison of

subscale scores is not applicable.

SUDS-Level

Subjective Units of Disturbance, as reported by each subject at 15 minute

intervals are shown in Figure 11, Figure 12 and Figure 13. Subject one reported

an absence of emotional distress throughout the first and second treatm ent

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41

Subject #1

Session 1 Session 2 Session 3


In Vitro Exposure Treatment

Figure 11. Subjective Units of Disturbance - Subject # 1 .

Subject #2

Session 1 Session 2 Session 3


In Vitro Exposure Treatment

Figure 12. Subjective Units of Disturbance - Subject # 2 .

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42
Subject #3

0:15
0:30
:45
0 :6 0

Session 1 Session 2 Session 3


In Vitro Exposure Treatment

Figure 13. Subjective Units o f Disturbance - Subject # 3 .

sessions. N ot until the third treatm ent session did subject one come into contact

with emotion-laden issues. Subjects two and three each reported emotional dis

tress throughout each of the three treatm ent sessions.

Participant R eport

Subjective reports of somatic symptoms and the utility of participation in

this project, as collected from the Self-Experience Questionnaire, are shown in

Table 1. All three subjects initially presented with multiple somatic symptoms.

A t follow-up, only subject one had maintained the multitude of somatic symp

toms; both subjects two and three reported significantly less somatic distress at

follow-up. Common to all subjects was the consistent presence of feelings of

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Table 1

Summary of Subjective D ata

Initial Interview 1 W eek Follow-up 1 M onth Follow-up

Subject # 1 hopelessness hopelessness hopelessness


anxiety anxiety
marital distress marital distress
sadness sadness sadness
anger anger anger
poor concentration poor concentration poor concentration
no social support no social support no social support
stomach distress
Subject # 2 guilt
hopelessness
fear
anxiety
marital distress
sadness sadness sadness
anger anger
poor concentration
no social support
headaches
stomach distress
Subject # 3 guilt N/A
hopelessness
sadness sadness
anger anger
poor concentration
no social support headaches

Did participation in the research project help you?


Subject # 1 no yes
Subject # 2 yes yes
Subject # 3 yes n/a
Did your spouses participation in the research project help you?
Subject # 1 yes yes
Subject # 2 yes yes
Subject # 3 n/a n/a
Did your spouses participation in the research project help him/her?
Subject # 1 yes yes
Subject # 2 yes yes
Subject # 3 n/a n/a

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sadness and anger. Although subject one had not viewed his participation in the

research as helpful to himself at the conclusion of his participation, by the one-

m onth follow-up, he had changed his position and viewed his participation as

beneficial. Both female subjects consistently reported their participation in the

research to have been helpful not only to themselves, but also to their spouses.

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CHAPTER IV

DISCUSSION

This study explored the efficacy of exposing bereaved parents to stimuli

associated with their deceased child as a means of alleviating their grief reaction.

Clinically significant improvement occurred on measures of depressed mood and

psychopathology for two subjects. All subjects showed improved marital relations.

Two subjects showed an increased level of hopelessness following the treatm ent

intervention. Treatm ent effects were mixed for symptoms of stress, anxiety,

bereavem ent and grief.

Previous attempts to assess the efficacy of an exposure-based treatm ent

intervention for grief reactions (Mawson, Marks, Ramm, & Stem , 1981; Sireling,

Cohen, & Marks, 1988) were not directed toward grief subsequent to perinatal

death. Hence, this study serves to advance the clinical research on perinatal loss

by providing data on the efficacy of a short term, exposure based treatm ent inter

vention for grief subsequent to perinatal death.

Early researchers in the field identified marital relations, social support,

mental health and coping responses as the best predictors o f and areas of focus

for promoting uncomplicated bereavem ent and avoiding complicated bereavement

(Hughes & Page-Leibermann, 1989; LaRoche, 1984; Lasker & Toeder, 1981;

Moscarrello, 1989; Peppers and Knapp, 1980; Seitz, 1974). Hence, the results of

45

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this study, which detected m ore treatm ent effects on general dependent measures

o f depression, marital functioning and psychopathology than on specific depen

dent measures of bereavem ent and grief subsequent to a perinatal loss are consis

tent with previous research. Further, results of this study expand the previous

research by providing support for subjective reports by parents experiencing a per

inatal loss that the death of their child had global and long lasting effects upon

themselves, their spouse, their marital, familial and social relationships.

Systematic examinations of the clinical treatm ent interventions employed

to reduce and eliminate the symptoms of a grief reaction have been limited and

inconclusive. Unfortunately, the conclusions which can be drawn from this study

are also limited by a small num ber of subjects and the absence of a control group,

as well as being inconclusive. Despite recruiting subjects by multiple means (e.g.,

newspaper ads, personal contact with and presentations to support groups, letters

to medical personnel) and within multiple locations (e.g., southwest Michigan,

suburban Michigan, central Oklahoma), response was too limited to implement

a controlled, group design. The limits of this study (e.g., small sample, no control

group), as well as previous research within the literature prevent one from making

experimentally sound decisions about the role of exposure to stimuli associated

with a loss. This study does, however, provide some clinically relevant evidence

to support future investigations of the use of exposure paradigms in treating peri

natal loss induced grief reactions. Continued recruitment is planned in order to

expand the number of bereaved individuals clinically treated with this exposure-

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based approach. Additionally, the findings of this study should serve to alert

medical and mental health professionals to the need for thoroughly assessing the

multifaceted aspects of parental adjustment to perinatal death.

Further research is needed to determine w hether or not the parents who

endure the hardship of the death of their child may be better served if hospital

personnel give permission to and encourage family members to hold the baby,

take pictures, name the baby, organize funeral services, communicate with the

physicians, nursing staff and amongst themselves, and grieve as would be done in

response to the death of any other family member. Second, future research to

determine the benefit derived from educating parents about the grief reaction

(e.g., incongruent bonding, incongruent grieving among spouses, familial reactions

to perinatal death) is needed. Additionally, future research is needed to deter

mine the benefit derived from educating family members and friends with regard

to the fact that perinatal death is a real loss for parents and that the grief is likely

to be as long and m ore intense as that expressed over the death of an older child

or spouse. Family and friends may need to be advised to support their loved ones

for at least six months to a year and perhaps up to two years after the death and

to encourage maternal discussions about the child and the death, her subsequent

fears, anxieties, anger and sadness without excluding or minimizing the effect of

perinatal loss on the father.

Small sample sizes and the absence of well controlled, group design re

search plagues perinatal loss research. Ideally, future research would replicate

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treatm ent intervention studies within controlled, group design contexts. However,

the difficulties incurred in attempting to design and implement such research may

not be easily overcome. Researchers may find it difficult to recruit parents who

have suffered a perinatal loss for various reasons. First, parents may be resistant

to engage in a research project shortly after experiencing such a traumatic event.

Second, parents may be lost to direct recruitment contacts (e.g., medical staff, psy

chologists, chaplains) after leaving the hospital. Third, parents may deny the

extent or degree of their grief reaction and hence fail to seek further professional

contact. Lastly, the current m anner in which health care professionals prepare

and support parents enduring a perinatal loss may be sufficient to diminish the

occurrence of complicated bereavement; however, professional experience sheds

grave doubt on such a hypothesis.

The establishment of multidisciplinary teams consisting of OB/GYN physi

cians, clinical psychologists, nurses and social workers who provide comprehensive

care to expectant parents may provided an arena through which to overcome the

difficulties inherent in perinatal loss research. Parents may be m ore inclined to

participate in research shortly after the death of their child if they had preexisting

relationships with members o f the multidisciplinary team. Second, increased in

terdisciplinary collaboration may serve to gather recruitm ent resources and subject

pools thereby increasing the likelihood of implementing group design research.

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Appendix A

Self-Experiences Questionnaire

49

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Self-Experience Checklist
(Initial Interview)

Please complete the following checklist as it applies to your


experiences since the time of the loss of your pregnancy/child.

As a result of mv loss. I have experienced the following (check all


that a p p l y ) :

guilt

hopelessness

fear

anxiety

marital distress

sadness

anger

difficulty concentrating

a lack of social support

headaches

stomach distress

interactions with a support group (please describe)

support from family, friends, etc. (please describe)

fr

other (please explain):

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51
Self-Experience checklist
(End of Treatment)

Please complete the following checklist as it applies to your


experiences since the time you began participation in the research
project.

As a result of mv loss. I have experienced the following (check all


that a p ply):

guilt _____ sadness

hopelessness _____ anger

fear _____ difficulty concentrating

anxiety _____ a lack of social support

marital distress _____ headaches

stomach distress

interactions with a support group (please describe)

support from friends, family, etc. (please describe)

other (please explain):

Do you feel that vour participation in the research project helped


you? _____ yes no

If applicable, do you feel that your spouses1 participation in the


research project
helped you? _____ yes _____ no

If applicable, do you feel that your spouses' participation in the


research project helped
her/him? _____ yes no

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Self-Experience Checklist
52
(Follow-up)

Please complete the following checklist as it applies to your


experiences since the time your participation in the research
project ended.

As a result of mv l o s s . I have experienced the following (check all


that apply):

guilt _____ sadness

hopelessness _____ anger

fear _____ difficulty concentrating

anxiety _____ a lack of social support

marital distress _____ headaches

stomach distress

interactions with a support group (please describe)

social support from family, friends, etc. (please describe)

other (please explain):

Do you feel that vour participation in the research project helped


you? _____ yes no

If applicable, do you feel that your spouses1 participation in the


research project
helped you? _____ yes no

If applicable, do you feel that your spouses' participation in the


research project helped
her/him? _____ yes no

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Appendix 6

Structured Interview

53

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54
Structured Interview

Code Number: ________________________________


DOB: _______

Marital Status:

Gender:

Type of loss:
a. pregnancy related -
explain: gestational age, cause (if known), gender (if
known), number of previous losses
b. child (must have been born alive) -
explain: age, cause, gender, number of previous losses
c. date of occurrence

Explain any history of conception complications:

Explain any involvement with medical and or mental health agencies


regarding the loss:

Explain the type and use of any medication prescribed during the
pregnancy and/or following the loss:

Explain any involvement with support groups:

Number of living children:


age:
gender:
health status:

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Appendix C

H um an Subjects Institutional Review Board Approval

55

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Human S u b jects Institutional Review Board

616 387-8293
56

W e s te r n M ic h ig a n U n iv e r s it y

Date: June 27, 1994

To: Michelle Rosa

From: Kevin Hollenbeck, C hair 'fsf'f k-

Re: HSIRB Project N um ber 94-04-04

This letter will serve as confirmation that your research project entitled "Perinatal loss: An
exposure-based approach for alleviating feelings of grief in bereaved parents" has been approved
under the full category of review by the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board. The
conditions and duration of this approval are specified in the Policies of W estern Michigan
University. You m ay now begin to implement the research as described in the application.

You m ust seek reapproval for any changes in this design. You m ust also seek reapproval if the
project extends beyond th e term ination date.

The Board wishes you success in the pursuit of your research goals.

Approval Termination: June 27, 1995

xc: Burnette, Psych.

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SEP-28-1995 09:53 FROM UMU U P RESEARCH TO 914052713265 P .02

Human Subjects institutional Review Board Kalamazoo. M ichij^ 49008-3899


616387-8293
t t .' s

W es te r n M ic h ig a n U n iv e r s it y

Date: June 21. 1995 ^

To: Rosa, Michele L.

From: Richard Wright. Interim Chair

Re: Old HSIRB Project Num ber 94-04-04


New HSRIB Project Number 95-06-17

This letter will serve as confirmation that an extension to your research project entitled "Perinatal
loss: An exposure-based approach for alleviating feelings of grief in bereaved parents" has been
granted by the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board. The conditions and duration of this
approval are specified in the Policies of Western Michigan University. You may now continue to
implement the research as described in the original application.

You must seek reapproval for any changes in this design. You m ust also seek reapproval if the
project extends beyond the termination date. In addition if there are any unanticipated adverse or
unanticipated events associated with the conduct of this research, you should immediately suspend
the project and contact the Chair of the HSIRB for consultation.

The Board wishes you success in the continued pursuit of your research goals.

Approval Termination: June 21, 1996

xc: Michele Burnette, Psych.

T rn rai P.

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The University of Oklahoma ESfS5; IV/tUs
Health Sciences Center a p p ro v a l d a te : 11/ 02/95

O FF IC E O F R ESEA R C H ADMINISTRATION

D r. H e a t h e r H u s z t i
P e d ia tric s /H e m a to lo g y - O n c o lo g y
CHO 2B265

SUBJ: An E x p o s u r e - b a s e d A p p ro a c h t o A l l e v i a t i n g F e e l i n g s o f G r i e f i n B e r e a v e d P a r e n t s ' .

D ear D r. H u s z t i :

T h e U n i v e r s i t y o f O k la h o m a H e a l t h S c i e n c e s C e n t e r 's I n s t i t u t i o n a l R e v ie w B o a rd r e v i e w e d
t h e a b o v e - r e f e r e n c e d p r o t o c o l a t i t s r e g u l a r l y s c h e d u le d m e e tin g . T he in f o r m e d c o n s e n t
docum ent and th e p r o to c o l a r e h e re b y a p p ro v e d . You m ay b e g i n s u b j e c t e n r o l l m e n t . I t is
t h e B o a r d 's ju d g m e n t t h a t t h e r i g h t s a n d w e l f a r e o f t h e i n d i v i d u a l who m ay b e a s k e d t o
p a r t i c i p a t e in t h i s s tu d y w i l l b e r e s p e c te d ; t h a t th e p ro p o s e d r e s e a r c h , in c lu d in g th e
p r o c e s s o f o b t a i n i n g in f o r m e d c o n s e n t , w i l l b e c o n d u c te d i n a rr-'m ner c o n s i s t e n t w i t h t h e
r e q u i r e m e n t s o f 45 CFR 4 6 , a s a m e n d e d ; a n d t h a t t h e p o t e n t i a l b e n e f i t s t o s u b j e c t s a n d t o
o t h e r s w a r r a n t t h e r i s k s s u b j e c t s m ay c h o o s e t o i n c u r .

As p r i n c i p a l i n v e s t i g a t o r o f t h i s p r o t o c o l , i t i s y o u r r e s p o n s i b i l i t y t o i n s u r e t h a t t h i s
s t u d y i s c o n d u c te d a s a p p r o v e d b y t h e B o a r d . A ny m o d i f i c a t i o n s t o t h e p r o t o c o l o r c o n s e n t
fo r m , i n i t i a t e d b y y o u o r b y t h e s p o n s o r , w i l l r e q u i r e p r i o r a p p r o v a l , w h ic h y o u may
r e q u e s t i n a n a m en d m en t l e t t e r o r m em orandum t o m e. A l l s t u d y r e c o r d s , i n c l u d i n g c o p i e s
o f s i g n e d c o n s e n t f o r m s , m u s t b e r e t a i n e d f o r t h r e e (3) y e a r s a f t e r t e r m i n a t i o n o f t h e
stu d y .

I t i s a c o n d i t i o n o f t h i s a p p r o v a l t h a t y o u r e p o r t p r o m p t l y t o t h e B o a rd a n y s e r i o u s , u n
a n t i c i p a t e d a d v e rs e e f f e c t s e x p e rie n c e d b y s u b j e c ts i n th e c o u rs e o f t h i s r e s e a r c h ,
w h e th e r o r n o t t h e y a r e d i r e c t l y r e l a t e d t o t h e s t u d y p r o t o c o l . T hese a d v e rs e e f f e c t s
i n c l u d e , b u t m ay n o t b e l i m i t e d t o , a n y e x p e r i e n c e t h a t i s f a t a l o r im m e d i a te l y l i f e -
th r e a te n i n g , i s p e rm a n e n tly d i s a b l i n g , r e q u i r e s (o r p ro lo n g s ) i n p a t i e n t h o s p i t a l i z a t i o n ,
o r i s a c o n g e n i t a l a n o m a ly , c a n c e r o r o v e r d o s e . F o r m u l t i - s i t e p r o t o c o l s , t h e B o a rd m u s t
b e in f o r m e d o f s e r i o u s a d v e r s e e f f e c t s a t a l l s i t e s .

The a p p ro v a l g r a n t e d h e r e i s e f f e c t i v e f o r on e y e a r . S h o u ld y o u w is h t o m a i n t a i n t h i s
p r o t o c o l i n a n a c t i v e s t a t u s b e y o n d t h a t d a t e , y o u w i l l n e e d t o p r o v i d e t h e B o a rd w i t h
a p r o g r e s s r e p o r t s u m m a r iz in g s t u d y r e s u l t s t o d a t e . IRB s t a f f i n t h e O f f i c e o f R e s e a r c h
A d m i n i s t r a t i o n w i l l r e q u e s t t h a t p r o g r e s s r e p o r t fro m y o u a p p r o x i m a t e l y t e n w e e k s b e f o r e
th e a n n iv e r s a ry d a te o f y o u r c u r r e n t a p p ro v a l.

I f y o u h a v e q u e s t i o n s a b o u t t h e s e p r o c e d u r e s , o r n e e d a n y a d d i t i o n a l a s s i s t a n c e fro m t h e
B o a r d , p l e a s e c o n t a c t IRB s t a f f . F in a l ly , p le a s e re v ie w y o u r p r o f e s s i o n a l l i a b i l i t y
i n s u r a n c e t o m ake s u r e y o u r c o v e r a g e i n c l u d e s t h e a c t i v i t i e s i n t h i s s t u d y .

S in c e r e ly y o u rs,

L a u r a I . R a n k in , M.D.
C h a i r , I n s t i t u t i o n a l R e v ie w BoanSea Box 26901 1000 S.L. Young Blvd., Room 121
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73190 (405) 271-2090 FAX (405) 271-8651

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