Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology



First Advisor

Lisa Samstag

Committee Chair and Members

Lisa Samstag, Chair

Nicholas Papouchis

Matthew J Morrison


Attachment, Grief, Maternal identity, Motherless mothers


This study investigated the development of maternal identity among maternally bereaved first-time pregnant women over 17 weeks of gestation, who lost their mother more than 12 months before their pregnancy. The aim of this study was to explore the relationships among attachment-related avoidance, attachment-related anxiety, maternal identity, and grief reactions. Participants were recruited online via announcements on email listservs, social media, bereavement forums, and pregnancy forums. A cross-sectional study was conducted among N = 250 primigravida women who experienced the death of their mother at least a year prior to their pregnancy. Data were collected using online self-report measures. Attachment-related avoidance was found to be negatively associated with maternal identity with a small effect size, but this relationship was not supported for attachment-related anxiety. Attachment-related avoidance with spouse was found to have a medium moderating effect on the relationship between grief and maternal identity, such that for average and high avoidance, the greater the avoidance, the greater the negative association between grief and maternal identity. Attachment-related anxiety was found to be positively associated with grief, such that women who reported higher attachment-related anxiety also reported significantly higher grief symptoms. A significant negative correlation was found between grief and maternal identity; however, when reflective functioning and the interaction between grief and maternal identity were included in the model, this relationship was no longer significant. The sample inadvertently contained a high proportion of maternally bereaved first-time pregnant women who reported symptoms of complicated grief and ambivalence toward their pregnancy and lower than norm anxiety- and avoidance-related attachment, characteristics which have important implications for how the results are interpreted. Clinical and theoretical implications of these findings are discussed, as well as suggestions for future research.

Available for download on Thursday, October 09, 2025