Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Jeffrey Applegate, PhD

Second Advisor

Joretha Bourjolly, PhD

Third Advisor

Carol Tosone, PhD


The death of a sibling represents a major crisis in the life of an adolescent. Instead of exploring the new intellectual, emotional, and psychological components of their identities, teens who lose a sibling often become isolated. Peer groups who were once helpful in providing crucial support and refuge from parental norms may become difficult for teens to relate to, while parents may become so engaged in their own grief they may be unable to provide the surviving adolescent sibling with guidance. Modern research suggests that bereavement is a lifelong process, yet at the very time an adolescent ideally is determining who he is, the death of a sibling threatens the developmental progression for many such youth.

Despite the profundity of this dilemma, there is insufficient research that addresses the impact of adolescent sibling bereavement on identity development. In fact, Balmer (1992) has argued that “a conceptual model of adolescent sibling bereavement does not exist” (p. 4). This dissertation explores the symptomatology of adolescent bereavement and its impact on adolescent identity development. This author will utilize the literature to provide a conceptual description of adolescent coping styles during sibling bereavement with an acknowledgement of both pathological and resilient responses and their impact on identity formation. Implications for social work practice, research and knowledge-building will be provided.

Included in

Social Work Commons