Understanding Children's Fear of Death

Ms Kerry Badenhorst (). Understanding Children's Fear of Death Professional Doctorate, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Ms Kerry Badenhorst
Thesis Title Understanding Children's Fear of Death
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Thesis type Professional Doctorate
Supervisor Professor Virginia Slaughter
Total pages 140
Total black and white pages 140
Abstract/Summary Abstract Work by Slaughter and Griffiths (2007) demonstrated that young children who had a mature death concept, that is, understanding death as a biological event occurring to all living things, had lower levels of death anxiety when age and general anxiety (via parent report) were controlled. The purpose of this study was to expand upon these findings with a more controlled correlational study, as well as a preliminary study investigating a death anxiety intervention for children. Study 1 investigated whether the developmental acquisition of mature concepts of death and human body function impacts upon children’s death anxiety when the effects of cognitive ability (IQ) and self reported general anxiety are controlled. Fifty children aged 6 to 8 years were individually interviewed about their understanding of death and body functioning, death anxiety, general anxiety, cognitive ability and life cycle experience. Bivariate correlational analyses revealed a significant negative correlation between body function knowledge and death anxiety. This relationship remained significant when controlling for IQ and general anxiety. Life cycle experience was also significantly negatively correlated to death anxiety with the relationship also remaining significant when IQ and general anxiety were controlled for. This finding provides further evidence that having mature human biological knowledge, specifically understanding the body in biological terms and functioning to maintain life, is associated with decreased death anxiety. Study 2 piloted a one session life cycle training package as an intervention to address children’s fear of death. Eight children were recruited from Study 1’s sample. Life cycle understanding, death anxiety and general anxiety were assessed prior to the training and then approximately one week post training administration. Repeated measures t-tests revealed a significant reduction in children’s death anxiety post training. Whilst children’s life cycle understanding scores increased following training administration, the changes did not reach statistical significance. General anxiety scores also remained unchanged at post training assessments. Clinical implications for these findings and limitations of the studies are discussed.
Keyword children
fear of death

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Created: Mon, 21 Feb 2011, 08:26:14 EST by Ms Kerry Badenhorst