Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Mental health, Stress (Psychology), Adjustment (Psychology), Natural disasters -- Washington (State) -- Saint Helens, Mount -- Psychological aspects



Physical Description

4, x, 240 leaves: ill. 28 cm.


This study focuses on the coping responses of the bereaved immediate family and close friends of persons who died as a result of the volcanic eruption of Mt. St. Helens in southwestern Washington on May 18, 1980. Three major research questions were addressed: Is there a relationship between illness and three life events: presumed death of a close relative or friend, confirmed death of a close relative or friend, and loss of one's permanent of recreational residence? Do self-efficacy and social supports act as intervening variables to buffer the negative effects of stress on one's health when coping with loss? What are the perceived effects of the media on coping with loss following a disaster? Subjects for this study included 155 respondents. Mailed questionnaires and interviews were used to collect data approximately 11 months post-disaster from bereaved, property loss and control subjects. Data were gathered primarily by standardized measures and were analyzed by univariate, multi-variate, correlational, and content-analysis techniques. The first study question results indicate that when compared to controls, the bereaved of confirmed dead were adversely affected by their loss in areas of negative life events, hassles, depression, and somatization; the bereaved of presumed dead reported being adversely affected by negative life events and depression; the permanent-property loss subjects adversely affected by negative life events. The second study question compared the combined bereaved group (n = 69) and the control group (n = 50) to examine the buffering roles of self-efficacy and social support. For the bereaved, stress accounted for 35% of the variance (p < .001) in depression. After statistically controlling for stress, both self-efficacy and social support were significant predictors of depression (p < .05). In contrast, stress accounted for 44% of the variance in depression for the controls, but neither self-efficacy nor social support made additional contributions in the prediction of any of the health outcome variables. Findings from the third study question indicate that the confirmed bereaved reported significantly more (p < .05) negative effects resulting from the media than any of the other study groups. Factors that might account for the findings and clinical interventions were suggested.


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Portland State University. School of Urban Affairs.

Persistent Identifier