Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Cheryl Regehr

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This research was designed to explore the growth of people who have cared for or about someone who has died of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)-related illnesses or complications related to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) disease. It consists of a cross-sectional study of 176 bereaved caregivers of people with HIV disease, some of whom themselves are HIV-positive. Measures were selected to assess demographics, creativity, spirituality/religiosity, social support, depression, traumatic symptomatology and posttraumatic growth. A research model is tested which examines the relationship of psychosocial resources and stressors to the post-traumatic growth of the bereaved participants. In addition, seven caregivers participated in unstructured interviews in order to provide descriptive data with which to supplement the quantitative results. The results demonstrate that individuals scoring highest on measures of spirituality, reported the greatest positive changes after trauma. Support for the role of spirituality was found in all the statistical tests as well as in the structural equation model. The interview data further substantiated the importance of spirituality in the process of growth. The structural equation model and the interview data also demonstrated confirmation of the hypothesis that the carers with higher reported levels social support would demonstrate higher post-traumatic growth. The results further demonstrated that those individuals with higher levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms reported the most growth after the death of the care recipient; this result was the opposite of the hypothesized relationship. This study provides a portrait of bereaved HIV carers in Canada and the realities associated with that situation_ The findings confirm the literature that suggests that, in contrast to carers of people with other diseases, HIV caregivers are younger, more often male, not necessarily a family member and are often HIV-positive themselves. This portrait and the relationship of spirituality, social support and trauma to growth have implications for social workers in all practice areas. The importance of spirituality mirrors an emerging area of interest in social work. The knowledge of factors that can play a role in post-traumatic growth can contribute to the work of social workers and others at any level of intervention.

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