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PSYC 3570 (66)
Chapter 10

Chapter 10

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PSYC 3570
Erin Allard

Chapter 10 – Death in the World of Childhood Adult Assumptions About Children and Death - Some people remember being given straightforward, naturalistic information - Most often, however, families followed a family rule of silence - Parents have difficulty communicating to kids because it has to do with the adults own fears, doubts, and conflicts Children do think about death - Early experiences with death in childhood o G staely Hall and student Colin Scott asked adults to recall their earliest experiences with death o They were recalled in vivid detail o Funeral and burial scene were the very earliest of all memories  This remains true for many people today o In a follow up study, Dickinson found that college students still had intense memories of their early childhood experiences with death o Most often children had been told that a deceased person had gone to heaven o Pet loss became an increasingly recognized significant event in a child life - Death in the songs and games of childhood o Innocent songs and games of childhood through the centuries have often been performances of death themes  Example ring around the rosy o In tag games, the person who is “it” must not peek or move while the other players conceal themselves o The scary thrill is experienced both by the victim and the monstrous “it” who has discovered the hiding place o Every participant gets to be both slayer and slain o Lethal violence is a common theme in children’s play through centuries  Cop and robbers  Medieval play  High tech computer game  It Is thought that the practice of violence in games children play might have a disturbing effect on their cognitive and emotional development  It is possible that children’s attitudes toward death can be distorted by an emphasis on the act rather than the consequences of killing Research Case Histories - Three brief case histories drawn from my research will provide a glimpse of individual and family patterns - Narrative data from structured interviews with the mothers of schoolchildren  Page 309 – 312 Concepts and Fears: Developing Through Experiences - It is clear that death has a place in the thoughts of children - What do children make of death? How do their ideas develop from early childhood onward? And what is the relationship between how children think about death and their fears? - Early studies emphasized maturation - Children’s understanding of death was found to improve along with the general development of their mental abilities - Later studies indicated that life experiences also play a significant role - A 13 year old for example, generally will show an understanding of death tat is more accurate and complete than that of a four year old - Evidence suggests that the Childs understanding of death is influenced by both maturation level and life experience, although much remains to be learned about the interaction of these factors - Auntie Deaths Pioneering study o Maria Nagy invited 378 children ranging in age from 3 to 10 years, to express their death related thoughts and feelings o Older children were asked to draw pictures and to write down everything that comes to your mind about death o Children of all ages were engaged in conversation o As Nagy reviewed to children’s words and pictures, she found that three age related stages could be established  Stage one  Includes the youngest children, from about the third until the fifth year  The dead are simply less alive  They cannot see hear- well, maybe they can, but not very well  They are not as angry as the living  Youngest children though of death as temporary  The dead might return just as the sleeping might awaken  Preschoolers were full of question about details of the funeral, the coffin, the cemetery, and so on  Even the very young children knew what it was like to feel scared or lonely, so these states of mind could readily be attributed to the dead  Stage 2  The next stage begins at age 5 or 6 and lasts till about age 9  The children now recognize that death is final  The older the child within this age range, the more firm the conclusion  Another new theme emerged as children represented eth as a person  Personification is one of humankinds most ancient modes of expressing the relationship with death  The personification of death as a skeleton was fairly common in nays sample of five to nine year olds  Some children depicted death as a circus clown – supposedly the embodiment of mirth  Other children saw dead people as representing death, while still others personified death in the form of angels  The realization of deaths finality is accompanied by the belief that this fate might still be eluded  Children in this age range tend to see death as an outside force or personified agent  Death is not recognized as universal and personal  Stage 3  Final stage begins around age 9 or 10 and is assumed to continue thereafter  The child now understand that death is personal, universal, and inevitable as well as final  All who live must die  Perhaps the child does not really have a grasp of afterlife concepts until death itself is appreciated as final and inevitable - What has been learned since auntie death o Nagy’s findings remain useful today, although the tendency to personify death between ages 5 and 9 seems to have diminished greatly, according to most follow up studies o There seems to be a tendency of children today to move throughout the stages at an earlier stage o There is a general agreement that basic understanding of death is usually achieved by about age 9 or 10 o Nag indentified the basic components as inevitability, nonreversability, universality, and persona inclusion o Later studies added cessation and causation: children come to understand that in death the body no longer can perform its functions and that it is this loss of function that results I death o Boys are more likely then girls to depict violent causes of death - Does anxiety influence children thoughts about death? o Children with more mature levels of understanding have lower levels of death anxiety o Awareness of the biologic basis of death seems to reduce uncertainty and climate the more fantastic type of fears o Most children have found somebody with whom to share heir dears o Researchers note that death related fears show up early in childhood and continue thereafter  Survival Is an urgent issue right from the beginning of life, so one should be ever vigilant  Lonetto found that younger children expressed more separation anxiety while older children expressed more sadness about death itself  Older children were more likely to depict death as scary and horrible, and they also focus more on their own possible death as compared with others  Children’s response to traumatic events takes a form related to their general level of cognitive and emotional development  In the wake of a natural disaster, preschool and elementary-school children expressed fear openly, while older children and adolescents more often showed withdrawal and antisocial behavior  The trauma stress response for both younger and older children usually included other signs of distress in addition to fear - Cultural influences on children’s concepts of death o Children’s thoughts about death are influenced by cultural beliefs systems and patterns of communication o In the US, adults have often tried to avoid death talk with children, a situation that has been moderating in recent years o Compared to the US, Taiwanese children are more likely to have been influenced by the belief that death is death: if anything happens thereafter it is st
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