From the mid 1960s to the early to mid 1980s, my research focused on the biasing effects of expectancies in clinical
testing and educational settings. In the 1980s, my interests shifted, first to alternative graduate education and
then to end-of-life issues. End-of-life issues have dominated my research interests from the late 1980s to the
present. Following is a brief synopsis of work in these areas. Full references to these and to other areas of
study, related talks, grants, and editorial board memberships can be found in the section "Resume."
Early Research: Biasing Effects (mid 1960s - mid 1980s)
Mid-career: Alternative Graduate Training (early 1980s)
- Bias in psychological testing.
My early career work on examiner bias in psychological testing demonstrated that results of psychological tests and test interpretation can be influenced by pretest expectancies and that this can occur as a result of both one's own predispositions and expectancies generated by external sources. For example, it was demonstrated that data obtained early in a test battery could influence data obtained later and consequently bias the resulting test report. Ensuing studies looked at how these effects are mediated. (Marwit, 1969; Marwit, 1971; Marwit, 1974; Marwit, 1981; Marwit & Marcia, 1967; Marwit & Strauss, 1975; Strauss & Marwit, 1970; Kabacoff, Marwit, & Orlofsky, 1985).
- Biasing effects of race and physical attractiveness.
As the result of a growing interest in helping disadvantaged children in inner-city schools, my attention shifted to the biasing effects of race, gender, and physical attractiveness in educational settings. These studies began with an interest in what was then called "black language" or "Nonstandard American English" and a desire to show that these language patterns were consistent and therefore different than Standard American English, rather than deficient, which was the prevailing viewpoint at the time. This led to studying the biasing effects of race, gender, and attractiveness on teachers' judgments of students' in the classroom (Marwit, 1977; Marwit, 1982; Marwit & Marwit, 1973a; Marwit & Marwit, 1976; Marwit & Marwit, 1973b; Marwit & Newmann, 1974; Marwit, Marwit, & Boswell, 1972; Marwit, Marwit, & Walker, 1978; Marwit, Walker, & Marwit, 1977).
In the 1980's, I let the above area of interest wane to devote a large portion of my scholarly time to exploring the possibility of a School of Professional Psychology at University of Missouri-St. Louis. I spent two years on that project, during which time I published three articles related to the Professional Schools of Psychology movement (Marwit, 1979; Marwit, 1982; Marwit, 1983). While on this journey, I lost interest in my earlier lines of research and waited for a new, personally meaningful line to emerge. Through a series of personal experiences and clinical connections, I became interested in grief and bereavement.
Recent Research: End-of-life studies (mid 1980s -present)
- Complicated grief:
The current mental health classification system (DSM-IV-TR) recognizes (uncomplicated) "Bereavement" as a category, which has significant emotional ramifications. However, the same taxonomy contains no categories describing "complicated" forms of bereavement. I have conducted a number of studies aimed at differentiating complicating forms of grief from "normal" grief and have most recently served as a member of the task force proposing the category of Prolonged Grief Reaction (formerly Complicate Grief) for inclusion in DSM-V (Enright & Marwit, 2002; Marwit, 1991; Marwit, 1996; Prigerson, et al., in preparation).
- Personality, coping styles and grief:
This line of research investigates the relationship of risk factors, such as personality and bereavement
circumstance, to grief intensity and one's ability to cope. It looks at the relative contributions of
emotion-based, task-based, and avoidance coping, as well as religious coping and does so with populations
of bereaved spouses and parents bereaved by homicide, accident, and illness. A related line of research
looks at "posttraumatic growth"; that is, personal growth resulting from grief (Anderson, Marwit, Vandenberg,
and Chibnall 2005; Becker, Marwit and Chibnall, 2008; Engelkemeyer & Marwit, 2008 Marwit & Engelkemeyer, in preparation; Matthews and
Marwit, 2006, a & b; Meuser and Marwit, 1999-2000; Meuser, Davies and Marwit,1995; Robinson and Marwit,
- Continuing bonds:
These studies explore the ongoing role(s) that the deceased play in the lives of survivors. They address a theoretical re-conceptualization of the process of grief and grief resolution which, contrary to traditional viewpoints, postulates that it is often healthy to maintain a bonds with the deceased. (Datson and Marwit, 1997; Marwit and Klass, 1988/89; Marwit and Klass, 1995; Marwit and Lessor, 2000-2001).
- Grief and caregiving:
These studies examine pre-death grief among caregivers of patients with terminal and life-threatening
illnesses. They present a model of grief in spouse and adult child caregivers of dementia patients, and
the development and clinical application of the 50-item Marwit-Meuser Caregiver Grief Inventory (MM-CGI)
and its 18-item short form (MM-CGI-SF), originally validated on a sample of dementia family caregivers and
subsequently validated on family caregivers of patients with cancer and acquired brain injury
(Marwit & Meuser, 2002; Marwit & Meuser, 2005; Marwit & Kaye, 2007; Marwit, Chibnall, Dougherty, Jenkins,
& Shawgo, 2008; Meuser and Marwit, 2001; Meuser, Marwit, and Sanders, 2004; Sanders, Marwit, and
Truth-telling in terminal illness:
Resulting from a 1995 involvement with a geriatric/hospice team helping to develop Western style hospice care for terminally ill patients in Eastern Europe (U.S. Agency for International Development), two papers emerged. One is theoretical and presents a psychologically-based justification for the major principles of hospice care; the other is empirical and addresses demographic and psychosocial variables related to cancer patients' preferences for levels of honesty and pathways of receiving terminal prognoses. (Marwit, 1997; Marwit & Datson, 2002).
Social support and end of life issues:
A few studies have looked at helpful and unhelpful support-intended communications in significant loss
situations (Jorgensen & Marwit, 2001; Marwit and Carusa,1997) and social support as a mediator of
posttraumatic growth (Engelkemeyer & Marwit, 2008).
Grief and assumptive world views:
These studies compare of the assumptive world views of parent bereaved by homicide, accident, and illness, and its relationship to coping (Matthews and Marwit, 2004; Wickie and Marwit,2000-2001).
Couples' communication in dementia:
This study of the communication patterns of spouses in early stage dementia, employing an awareness context theoretical framework, supports the hypothesis that mutually open communication in early stages of dementia is related to marital satisfaction and intimacy (Marwit, Meuser, & Bryer,2005)
Forgiveness and caregiving:
A series of investigations have been designed and conducted on the utility of using the Enright Forgiveness Inventory to study the effects of forgiveness among adult caregivers who experienced transgressions in their marriages prior to their spouse's dementia diagnosis (DeCaporale-Ryan, Steffen, Marwit, & Meuser, 2013; DeCaporale-Ryan, Steffen, Marwit, Meuser, & Chibnall, submitted for publication). Both studies confirm the utility of this measure.