Global Challenges: How Families Manage the Stress of Ambiguous Loss

Concurrent Sessions 9 (Special Session)

Pauline Boss, Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Facilitator: Jerica Berge, Ph.D., MPH, LMFT, CFLE, University of Minnesota


This session will be live streamed

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1:30 PM
2:45 PM
Golden Pacific Ballroom
Session #
Session Type
Special Session
Organized By
Families & Health
Family Therapy
Research & Theory
About the Session

Welcome from the session sponsor - Regents of the University of Minnesota, through its Department of Social Science: Jodi Dworkin

Sponsored by Regents of the University of Minnesota, through its Department of Social Science


After a brief review of the Contextual Model of Family Stress (CMFS) and the stressor of ambiguous loss—what it is and is not—Dr. Boss will focus on how researchers, family therapists, and educators can use this framework to better understand families in trouble. Examples will be global as well as local to demonstrate the inclusiveness of diversity in the CMFS and its Ambiguous Loss theory. Updates on research for ambiguous loss and boundary ambiguity will be reviewed along with research-based guidelines that can ease the distress and trauma of families--and the individuals in them. Gender issues will be discussed. Dr. Boss ends with a list of future directions for family stress management.


Participants attending this special session will: (1) Understand the Contextual Model of Family Stress (CMFS) and how to apply it to troubles families; (2) Become familiar with key tenets of Ambiguous Loss Theory and the connection to helping global families; (3) Develop an appreciation for the interplay between stress, Ambiguous Loss and Global families

About the Presenter


Pauline Boss, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota who is widely recognized for her groundbreaking research on what is now known as the theory of ambiguous loss. Dr. Boss is known as a pioneer in the interdisciplinary study of family stress. For over thirty years, her work has focused on connecting family science and sociology with family therapy and psychology. Her multidisciplinary perspective has allowed her to work as a scientist-practitioner to develop theory that guides practice.

Dr. Boss received her bachelor’s degree in education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison before earning her master’s and doctorate in child development and family studies. She was named an NCFR Fellow in 1999. Dr. Boss has also received a number of awards including a Humanitarian Award from the Service Employees International Union for her work with the families who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center Attacks on September 11, 2001. While retired and no longer teaching courses, Dr. Boss has remained active in studying ambiguous loss and sharing her expertise with news outlets across the world.

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