The relationship among children's conceptualization of death, parental communication about death, and parental death anxiety

Talia Hatzor Matalon, Fordham University

Abstract

This study investigated the relationship between parents' communications about death with their children and children's conceptualization of death. The relationship between parental death anxiety and parents', communications about death was also examined. Other variables examined were: parents' belief in an afterlife, parents' religion, children's experiences with loss, children's gender, and children's age with children's conceptualization of death, parents' communications about death, and parental death anxiety. ^ All 68 children, mainly second graders (37 females and 31 males), between the ages of 6 and 9 years, and their parents (mainly mothers) were of a higher socioeconomic level and were well educated. The Development of Death Concept Questionnaire was used to measure death conceptualization in children. It included five death concept scales: Irreversibility, Finality, Causality, Inevitability, and Old Age. The Communication on Death and Dying Questionnaire was used to measure parents' communications about death. This questionnaire was specifically developed for this study. The Revised Death Anxiety Scale was used to measure death anxiety in parents. ^ A significant positive relationship was found between parents' communications about death and children's death conceptualization, and a significant negative relationship was found between parental death anxiety and parents' communications about death. No relationship was found between parental death anxiety and children's death conceptualization. Significant positive relationships were found between parents' communications about death and the death concepts of Causality, Inevitability, and Old Age, but not Irreversibility and Finality. Significant relationships were also revealed between children's experiences with death, children's age, children's gender, and parents' communications about death; between children's experiences with losses, parents' religion (Jewish or not Jewish), parental belief in an afterlife, and parental death anxiety, and children's death conceptualization. Multiple regression analyses indicated that the best predictor of death conceptualization was parents' afterlife beliefs, and that the best predictor of parents' communications about death was child's age, followed by child's gender, and parental death anxiety. Although a significant relationship was found between parents' religion and parents' belief in an afterlife, indicating that Jewish parents were more death anxious than non-Jewish parents, partial correlations revealed that this relationship was not accounted for by belief in an afterlife. ^ The results of this study suggested that parents play an important role in their children's death conceptualization. It also suggested that parents who are more death anxious are less effective in their communications to their children about death. This suggests that educators and psychologists working with children in schools incorporate parents into their death education programs. The program could address parents' anxieties and their communications about death. Also, religious beliefs of life after death should be distinguished from factual information about death, both in children's death education and in the operationalization of death conceptualization. ^

Subject Area

Education, Guidance and Counseling|Psychology, Developmental

Recommended Citation

Talia Hatzor Matalon, "The relationship among children's conceptualization of death, parental communication about death, and parental death anxiety" (January 1, 1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI9960950.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI9960950

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