University of Missouri - Saint Louis

The Graduate School


An oral examination in defense of the dissertation for the degree

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology

Rachel Hibberd
M.A. in Psychology, May, 2009, University of Missouri-St. Louis.
B.S. in Psychology, May, 2007, University of Florida

Development and Validation of a Measure of Perceived Life Significance



Theoretical and empirical approaches to the study of meaning in bereavement suggest a conceptual distinction between meaning as sense-making, or the integration of the loss into a coherent and positive set of beliefs about world and self, and meaning as life significance, or the felt perception that some aspect of one's life experience “matters” in the wake of loss. Although several authors have pointed to the importance of life significance in grief recovery, currently no psychometrically valid measure exists. The present study examined the reliability and validity of a new measure of this construct, the Perceived Life Significance Scale (PLSS). The PLSS total score, as well as subscale scores, demonstrated acceptable inter-item reliability across samples. Exploratory factor analysis in a sample of community bereaved adults (N=353) suggested a three-factor structure, with subscales representing the active pursuit of valued goals (Active Life Significance), the experience of emptiness or insignificance (Negative Life Significance), and a passive receptivity to beauty or meaning in everyday life (Receptive Life Significance). This factor structure was confirmed in a sample of bereaved undergraduates (N=483). The PLSS demonstrated good convergent and discriminant validity in both samples, with stronger associations with other meaning measures than with measures of negative affect, depression, and grief intensity. A confirmatory joint factor analysis found support for the discriminant validity of the PLSS with respect to the World Assumptions Scale, a measure of meaning as sense-making. These results suggest the utility of the PLSS as a measure specific to meaning but discrepant from meaning as sense-making.


Date: March 25, 2013

Time: 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

Place: 233 Stadler Hall


Defense of Dissertation Committee


Brian Vandenberg, Ph.D. (Chair)

Ann Steffen M. Steffen, Ph.D.


Zöe Peterson, Ph.D.

Thomas Meuser, Ph.D.