College of Education and Human Development

Family Social Science

Pauline Boss

  • Professor emeritus

Pauline Boss

Areas of interest

Ambiguous Loss (Research & Practice)
Family Resilience, Stress, and Coping
Families of the Kidnapped and Missing
Care-giving for Dementia
Families of physical or psychological ambiguous loss


Pauline Boss, PhD, was a member of the FSOS faculty from 1981 to 2005. She is a Fellow in the American Psychological Association, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, andthe National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) of which is also a former president. She practiced family therapy for over 40 years. In her groundbreaking work in research and practice, Dr. Boss coined the term ambiguous loss in the 1970s and since then, has developed and tested the theory of ambiguous loss, a guide for working with families of the missing, physically or psychologically in over 100 peer-reviewed academic articles and chapters.  She summarized this research and clinical work in her first book, Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief, (Harvard University Press, 1999), and has also written Loss, Trauma, and Resilience: Therapeutic Work with Ambiguous Loss (W. W. Norton, 2006) and Loving Someone Who Has Dementia: How to Find Hope While Coping with Stress and Grief (Jossey-Bass, 2011). She is also co-author of the textbook, Family Stress Management (2017), with Chalandra Bryant and Jay Mancini. Her most recent book is The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change (W. W. Norton, 2022). Her work is known around the world and her books are now available in 19 different languages. For more information about Dr. Boss, her writings, and the ambiguous loss online training program, see