Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling Psychology & Community Services


Approximately 25% of college students experience the loss of a romantic relationship each year. It has been proposed that such a loss results in a grief reaction similar to that experienced after a death. Theory also suggests that such major life events are an opportunity for growth. But very little research has been conducted to date to test these propositions. The review of the literature also suggested that gender and interpersonal attachment style are related to differential responses to romantic loss. This study tested Schneider’s (1984) mode! of response to loss, which predicts that the degree of involvement in three response-tasks of discovering: What's Lost (grief), What’s Left (healing), and What’s Possible (growth) is related to time since the loss.

Three hundred and sixteen college students were surveyed, using a research version (RTL-Short) of the Response to Loss Inventory (RTL). Information regarding the participants interpersonal attachment style was also gathered. A between-subjects, ex post facto and correlational design utilizing Pearson product-moment correlations, ANOVA and graphic/regression was used to analyze the data. The internal consistency reliability estimates of the RTL-S subscales were excellent.

Results generally supported the three-task model. Involvement in What’s Lost (grief) was higher for those with relatively recent losses. Regression analysis suggested a curvilinear relationship between time and What’s Left (healing), with those participants having either recent or distant losses scoring lower than those with losses of an intermediate time. Involvement in What’s Possible (growth) was higher for those with more distant losses. There was no evidence for gender differences in What’s Lost or What’s Possible. Those with dismissing avoidant and secure attachment styles experienced the least grief, while those with fearful avoidant and preoccupied styles experienced the most grief. Those with preoccupied attachment also were involved in What’s Possible (growth) with less intensity than the other participants.