Children and Death: Perspectives from Birth through Adolescence

Children and Death: Perspectives from Birth through Adolescence

Children and Death: Perspectives from Birth through Adolescence

Children and Death: Perspectives from Birth through Adolescence


Bringing together the views of numerous distinguished scholars, Children and Death investigates the child's concept of death from both academic and clinical points of view. The contributors have aimed at developing practical guidelines for a multidisciplinary approach to the care and support of the dying child, the child's family unit, and staff who work with dying children. The findings presented here are also applicable to care of children with life-threatening illness. Topics discussed include: children's concepts of death; emotional impact of disease; perspectives on children's death and dying; and coping with a child's death.


Margot Tallmer

We are all familiar with the fact that articles devoted to the topic of death have increased dramatically within the last decade or so. Interest has been directed not only to the act of dying, but also to related areas such as euthanasia, capital punishment, abortion, heart transplants, and after-death experiences. One result of this increased attention is that children are frequently exposed to death concerns. In addition, since the media attention given to the Kennedy assassination, there has been a societal imprimatur for children to participate in funeral services and mourning rituals. Finally, we have come to acknowledge the existence of childhood depression and suicide, phenomena that previously were denied. Thus, discussions of current issues related to death are now more widely disseminated. We have clearer notions of children's interest in and exposure to death-related issues, and are more aware that children must think about death and dying. Paradoxically, children have less first-hand exposure to death within a close familial setting, since grandparents and elderly relatives are often sequestered in their own homes, in retirement villages, or in institutions. Children no longer witness the playing out of the entire life cycle. This book is an interdisciplinary work that integrates current research with related areas and examines the implications and future possibilities. Generalizations have been refined, and thus can be applied judiciously and effectively. We are no longer on square one.


Childhood suicide is now an accepted fact of life: the statistics cannot be ignored. Why has this not been acknowledged before? John Schowalter (Chapter 1) attributes oversight of this issue to the awareness on the part of adults of their own unwitting participation in the process. With this insight, parents can profit from the direct, practical help he offers for decreasing youthful violence and carnage. Parents, of course, are not the sole purveyors of information and attitudes toward death. Both Steven Moss (Chapter 2) and Judith Rubinstein (Chapter 4) have studied selected religious groups-Jews and Protestants, respectively -- to examine more closely the impact of religious orientation on the acquisition of a concept of death. This particular variable, religious teaching, seems, a priori, to warrant consideration.

Another obvious question is how children's notions about death differ from those of adults. Mark Speece and Sandor Brent (Chapter 3) have wisely broken down the complex . . .

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