Date of Award

Summer 1975

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Tagatz, Glenn E.

Second Advisor

Topetzes, Nich

Third Advisor

Ivanoff, John


The purpose of the study was to investigate the nature of concepts of death held by children of different ages, from two through sixteen, and to investigate whether these concepts were influenced by such variables as sex, level of parental education, or degree of religious influence within the family. Specific attention was directed toward investigation of the themes of finality of death, inevitability of death, and acknowledgment of death as a personal event. One hundred twenty children were individually interviewed, using a semi-structured format. The interviews were then rated independently by two judges, according to a five-point rating scale for each of the three concept themes. A four-way analysis of variance was used to analyse the ratings in terms of the independent classification variables. The analysis revealed no essential explainable differences due to sex, level of parental education, or degree of religious influence within the family. Age, however, was a significant factor in the concept of death held by children. The younger children (age two to four) tended to view death as reversible rather than final, as improbable or escapable rather than inevitable, and as not personally applicable to them. The children who were aged five to seven and older did not demonstrate to any great degree the belief in ghosts or functional capabilities of the dead found in earlier investigations, but did very much express the belief either in a spiritual life after death or in the total finality of death...



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