Acute loss and the social construction of blame

Daniel D Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Using interview and observation data from white and African-American parents of murdered children, this article explores a primary social process accompanying acute loss: the social construction of blame. Findings reveal that race and class are primary forces that shape not only the experience of loss, but also attributions of cause, designations of blame, and the construction of post-mortem identities. While poor Black informants encountered avoidance strategies on the part of authorities (e.g., police) when their child was murdered, whites and upper middle-class Blacks received emotional support. This differential treatment by authorities led to either legitimate or disenfranchised grief, both of which were addressed by the strategy of "sanctification," a form of emotion work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-167
Number of pages19
JournalIllness Crisis and Loss
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2005


  • Blame
  • Disenfranchised grief
  • Inequality
  • Sanctification


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