Centre for Death & Society

Chao Fang

Title: An explanation of the process of bereavement and its verification--via a sociological perspective of “motivation”

Supervisors: Dr Christine Valentine, Dr John Troyer,  Dr Paula Smith


Chao majored in Japanese language and culture for his Bachelor Degree in Dalian University, China (2010), and he obtained Master Degree in Philosophy and Cultural Sciences in Hokkaido University, Japan (2014). In the previous eight years, Chao completely his Bachelor Thesis on exploring the extremely high suicide rate in Japan, and his Master Thesis by focusing on how people’s identity status transforms in the situation of bereavement by focusing on the intimate relationships between the deceased and the bereaved.

In his master thesis, he classified their identity status into identity diffusion, foreclosure, moratorium and achievement, and reached the conclusion that it is not necessary for all bereaved people to experience all four types of identity status and to experience these types of status in turn; instead, their status will not only oscillate between loss- and restoration-orientations as Stroebe & Schut (1999) insists, but also transform towards identity achievement. Being inspired to explore bereavement behaviours further, he is undertaking a PhD programme in the Centre for Death and Society from March, 2015.


His research aims to make clear the process of bereavement mainly in the light of sociology by focusing on “motivation” and “social action”. The study will start from psychological discourse which mainly claims motivation generates individual’s behaviours. Furthermore, the extent of discussion on individual motivation is going to be expanded to “social action” by analyzing how actions are motivated through the impact of social structure on an agent. Based on a general analysis of how social elements work on the individual’s action, specific attention will be paid to bereavement so that an explanation of how bereavement behaviour is activated by social structure will be made.

However, this research will not stop at theoretical analysis, but a further verification will be undertaken, which consists of both a primary investigation in China, which is supposed to be the first investigation of bereavement in mainland China, and a secondary investigation of bereavement in the UK and Japan, to verify whether bereavement reactions will be motivated as indicated in the theoretical part. Moreover, the verification will be designed as a comparison study between the UK, Japan and China, in order to understand not only how social structure works on culturally different bereavement reactions, but also to develop a theory on the relationships between motivation and bereavement.