Adolescents' Perceptions and Experiences of Death and Grieving

By Morin, Suzanne M.; Welsh, Lesley A. | Adolescence, Fall 1996 | Go to article overview

Adolescents' Perceptions and Experiences of Death and Grieving


Morin, Suzanne M., Welsh, Lesley A., Adolescence


By the time an individual has reached adolescence, it is likely that he or she has been exposed to death. Some adolescents encounter it through a personal loss, such as the death of grandparents, parent, or even a peer. However, even those who have not experienced a direct loss, have some experiences and perceptions of death. It is virtually a universal experience to be exposed to the sensationalized treatment of death through the media such as television, movies, lyrics, and even video games such as Mortal Kombat. The purpose of this study was to examine adolescents' perceptions and experiences of death and grieving.

The majority of thanatology research on adolescents' reaction to death has focused on the impact of the death of a parent (Gray, 1987; Weller, Weller, Fristad, & Bowes, 1991) or the death of a sibling (Balk, 1990, 1991; Hogan & Balk, 1990; Hogan & Greenfield, 1991). Other researchers have investigated adolescents' grief and bereavement over the death of a peer (Evans, 1982; Gray, 1988; McNeil, Sillimon, & Swihart, 1991) and the impact of suicide (Mauk & Weber, 1991; Solomon, 1982; Zinner, 1987). However, the predominance of research on death has targeted populations known to have experienced a recent loss. This study expands the knowledge base by sampling adolescents' perceptions of death and grieving regardless of their past experience.

Researchers have found that adolescents share the adult concept of death as a universal, inevitable process by which life as we know it terminates (Aiken, 1994; Nagy, 1948; Tallmer, Formanek, & Tallmer, 1974; Sahler, 1978). Gaffney (1988) reports that adolescents are capable of understanding the physiological, psychological, and religious or spiritual aspects of death. A study by Sahler (1978) revealed that adolescents' beliefs about death varied greatly but that "spiritual continuation after death" was the most frequently reported belief. Stricherz & Cunningham (1981-1982) reported that adolescents' concerns centered around losing a person they loved, punishment, and the finality of death.

Individual differences in a person's concept of death may be influenced by many factors such as family and cultural background, life experiences, and environment which are often related to socioeconomic status (SES) and race. Despite the fact that African-Americans constitute 12% of the U.S. population, 50% of murder victims in the U.S. were African-American. Most people arrested were below average SES (U.S. Dept of Justice, 1992). Homicide has been reported as a leading cause of death in African-American men (Aiken, 1994). These statistics consistently indicate that adolescents do have different perceptions and experiences of death that may be as varied as their environments.

According to Tallmer et al. (1974) lower-class children are more aware of the concept of death than are middle-class children. Other researchers indicate that different life experiences contribute to diverse conceptualizations of death (Dunton, 1970). Therefore, it was hypothesized that adolescents from different environments would report different perceptions and experiences of death and grieving.

METHOD

Sample

The sample consisted of 32 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18. Nineteen of the subjects attended a suburban public school, while 13 were in a residential facility which serves urban delinquent youth who have committed nonviolent acts. Thus, this urban sample of nonviolent delinquents and may not be representative of urban nondelinquents. The adolescents from the public high school included 4 males and 15 females. The ethnic composition was 18 Caucasians and one African-American. All 13 of the subjects from the urban sample were African-American males.

The subjects who attended the suburban public high school reported their religious background as: 6 Roman Catholic; 3 Brethren; and 8 Protestant. Two youths did not provide this information. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Adolescents' Perceptions and Experiences of Death and Grieving
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.