Research on Children’s Conception of Death | Methodology

1536 words (6 pages) Essay

16th Apr 2018 Psychology Reference this

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This study design is to find out the understanding of death of children from different stages, and the difference between their concepts. Death is part of our life and also an accomplishment of it that no one can avoid. Numerous studies have been conducted to determine different ages of children’s concept towards death in these 80 years, and the first one was conducted by Schilder and Wechsler in 1934 (Speece, 1995). According to Speece, there is a positive relationship between age and children’s concept of death.

Maria Nagy (1948) conducted a classic experiment on this topic and inferred that there are three stages that are closely related for children of understanding death.

First stage (3 to 5 years old): Younger children cannot understand the outcome and irreversibility of death. Children understand that they need to eat and breathe in order to live, so they cannot imagine a person without these activities. Most of them regard death as the person who is sleeping or it is just a temporary state and starts to have the recognition that death is different from life.

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Second stage (5 to 8 years old): Children have not understood that death is unavoidable, natural and universal. During this period, they realize that death is the final outcome of human, and they think it is unpredictable and mysterious. Children tend to believe that life is taken away by external force, which they think it is the same force that gives us life, therefore it is reasonable that it could be taken away, and then we die.

Third stage (above 9 years old): Children have mature understanding of death. They realize that death is not something that can be interfered by external forces (except accident), and could not be controlled by human’s will. Death is a natural process that will happen on every individual, including themselves.

On the other hand, death is not a single concept, it has four components: universality, irreversibility, non-functionality and causality (Speece, 1995). In this study, we are going to examine children’s concept about universality and irreversibility of death.

Definitions of Key Components

Universality refers to the understanding that all living things will die.

Irreversibility refers to the understanding that once a living thing dies, the physical body cannot alive (Speece & Sandor B, 1984).

Method

Participants

A total of 30 4-year-olds, 30 7-year-olds and 30 10-year-olds children are chosen to attend this experiment. All participants are right-handed, have normal eye-sight, hearing and their intelligence are at average level. They should not do similar experiment before. Informed consent was obtained from parents, teachers and related department of participants.

Design and Procedure

We duplicate the method which Zhu LiQi and Fang Fuxi used in Children’s Understanding of Aging.

Experiment 1: Free Association Task

Participants will be required to recall anything that could die, such as animals and plants. This step is to see if participants have the ability to distinguish non-living objects and living things.

Guidance: “There are many objects around us, some of them will die one day, but some of them won’t die. Can you give me some examples of them? Very good. Do you have any more examples?”

Experiment 2: Organization Task

A total of 16 kinds (8 kinds of non-living objects and 8 kinds of living things) of stimuli in the form of real photos will be presented to participants. There are photos of rocks, clouds, rivers, sun, spoons, television, cars, chairs, mushrooms, flowers, trees, grass, birds, fish, dog and human.(We choose stimulus that children are easily seen in daily life.).

Procedure: All photos will be presented in a randomly mixed order. Participants are required to separate photos into two sets (Those that can die and those cannot). Experimenter will record the reaction of participants and make sure that the 2 sets are correct. This experiment will repeat twice to reduce random error.

Experiment 3: The irreversibility and universality of death.

Choose 3 types of photos as stimulus from experiment 2, such as “trees”, “dogs” and “human”. Experimenter will ask two questions: 1) Question about irreversibility: If X dies, can it/she/he come back to life or it/she/he will be dead forever? 2) Question about universality: Does X has to die, or X can live forever? (X refers to stimulus)

Results

Experiment 1

The responses from participants can group into three categories.

  1. Not distinguishable: Participants reply not knowing the answers, having non-living objects in death example or vice versa and some will give conflict answer such as, the object will die and not die in different examples.
  2. Partly distinguishable: Participants’ answers are partially correct, they answer animals and plants, animals and human or only one of them will die and they know non-living things is not a biotic example.
  3. Fully Distinguishable: Participants answer that human, animals and plants will die and non-living objects will not die.
   

Responses

 

Age

Not distinguishable

Partly distinguishable

Fully distinguishable

4

26

4

0

7

18

8

4

10

7

13

10

Table 1

From my expected result, 4 years old children can hardly distinguish and this phenomenon will decrease when the age of children increased.

Experiment 2

In this experiment, participants will only get 1 point if they get the correct answer twice, otherwise 0 point. Hence there are four categories: animals, plants, natural objects and artifacts. The total score for each category is 4 points.

Age

Animals

Plants

Natural Objects

Artifacts

Mean

S.D

Mean

S.D

Mean

S.D

Mean

S.D

4

               

7

               

10

               

Table 2

We will use SPSS 3 x 4 Anova to examine the scores. We predict that there is a main effect for Age and Stimulus and interaction between them. Follow-up test is required if results are significant. The older the children, the more accurate they determine in each category. (Li-qi & Fu-xi, 2006)

Experiment 3

Participants will get 1 point for each question. Therefore, there will be 3 points for irreversibility and 3 points for universality.

Age

Stimulus: Dogs, Human Trees

Irreversibility

Universality

Mean

S.D

Mean

S.D

4

       

7

       

10

       

Table 3

We will use SPSS 3 x 2 Anova to examine the scores. We predict that most of the 4-years old and 7-years old children could not understand the concept of irreversibility and universality of death. It is because they thought that death is just a temporary state and they thought that death is avoidable if you are lucky enough (Nagy, 1948). 10-years old children have mature understanding of these two key components of death.

References

Li-qi, Z., & Fu-xi, F. (2006). Perschool Children’s Understanding of Death. Chinese Journal of Clnical Psychology, 91-93.

Nagy, M. (1948). The Child’s Theories concerning Death. The Pedagogical Seminary and Journal of Genetic Psychology, 3-27.

Speece, M. W. (1995). Michigan Family Review. 57-69. Retrieved from Children’s Concepts of Death.

Speece, M. W., & Sandor B, B. (1984). Children’s Understanding of death: A review of Three Components of a Death Concept. Child Development, 1671-1686.

This study design is to find out the understanding of death of children from different stages, and the difference between their concepts. Death is part of our life and also an accomplishment of it that no one can avoid. Numerous studies have been conducted to determine different ages of children’s concept towards death in these 80 years, and the first one was conducted by Schilder and Wechsler in 1934 (Speece, 1995). According to Speece, there is a positive relationship between age and children’s concept of death.

Maria Nagy (1948) conducted a classic experiment on this topic and inferred that there are three stages that are closely related for children of understanding death.

First stage (3 to 5 years old): Younger children cannot understand the outcome and irreversibility of death. Children understand that they need to eat and breathe in order to live, so they cannot imagine a person without these activities. Most of them regard death as the person who is sleeping or it is just a temporary state and starts to have the recognition that death is different from life.

Second stage (5 to 8 years old): Children have not understood that death is unavoidable, natural and universal. During this period, they realize that death is the final outcome of human, and they think it is unpredictable and mysterious. Children tend to believe that life is taken away by external force, which they think it is the same force that gives us life, therefore it is reasonable that it could be taken away, and then we die.

Third stage (above 9 years old): Children have mature understanding of death. They realize that death is not something that can be interfered by external forces (except accident), and could not be controlled by human’s will. Death is a natural process that will happen on every individual, including themselves.

On the other hand, death is not a single concept, it has four components: universality, irreversibility, non-functionality and causality (Speece, 1995). In this study, we are going to examine children’s concept about universality and irreversibility of death.

Definitions of Key Components

Universality refers to the understanding that all living things will die.

Irreversibility refers to the understanding that once a living thing dies, the physical body cannot alive (Speece & Sandor B, 1984).

Method

Participants

A total of 30 4-year-olds, 30 7-year-olds and 30 10-year-olds children are chosen to attend this experiment. All participants are right-handed, have normal eye-sight, hearing and their intelligence are at average level. They should not do similar experiment before. Informed consent was obtained from parents, teachers and related department of participants.

Design and Procedure

We duplicate the method which Zhu LiQi and Fang Fuxi used in Children’s Understanding of Aging.

Experiment 1: Free Association Task

Participants will be required to recall anything that could die, such as animals and plants. This step is to see if participants have the ability to distinguish non-living objects and living things.

Guidance: “There are many objects around us, some of them will die one day, but some of them won’t die. Can you give me some examples of them? Very good. Do you have any more examples?”

Experiment 2: Organization Task

A total of 16 kinds (8 kinds of non-living objects and 8 kinds of living things) of stimuli in the form of real photos will be presented to participants. There are photos of rocks, clouds, rivers, sun, spoons, television, cars, chairs, mushrooms, flowers, trees, grass, birds, fish, dog and human.(We choose stimulus that children are easily seen in daily life.).

Procedure: All photos will be presented in a randomly mixed order. Participants are required to separate photos into two sets (Those that can die and those cannot). Experimenter will record the reaction of participants and make sure that the 2 sets are correct. This experiment will repeat twice to reduce random error.

Experiment 3: The irreversibility and universality of death.

Choose 3 types of photos as stimulus from experiment 2, such as “trees”, “dogs” and “human”. Experimenter will ask two questions: 1) Question about irreversibility: If X dies, can it/she/he come back to life or it/she/he will be dead forever? 2) Question about universality: Does X has to die, or X can live forever? (X refers to stimulus)

Results

Experiment 1

The responses from participants can group into three categories.

  1. Not distinguishable: Participants reply not knowing the answers, having non-living objects in death example or vice versa and some will give conflict answer such as, the object will die and not die in different examples.
  2. Partly distinguishable: Participants’ answers are partially correct, they answer animals and plants, animals and human or only one of them will die and they know non-living things is not a biotic example.
  3. Fully Distinguishable: Participants answer that human, animals and plants will die and non-living objects will not die.
   

Responses

 

Age

Not distinguishable

Partly distinguishable

Fully distinguishable

4

26

4

0

7

18

8

4

10

7

13

10

Table 1

From my expected result, 4 years old children can hardly distinguish and this phenomenon will decrease when the age of children increased.

Experiment 2

In this experiment, participants will only get 1 point if they get the correct answer twice, otherwise 0 point. Hence there are four categories: animals, plants, natural objects and artifacts. The total score for each category is 4 points.

Age

Animals

Plants

Natural Objects

Artifacts

Mean

S.D

Mean

S.D

Mean

S.D

Mean

S.D

4

               

7

               

10

               

Table 2

We will use SPSS 3 x 4 Anova to examine the scores. We predict that there is a main effect for Age and Stimulus and interaction between them. Follow-up test is required if results are significant. The older the children, the more accurate they determine in each category. (Li-qi & Fu-xi, 2006)

Experiment 3

Participants will get 1 point for each question. Therefore, there will be 3 points for irreversibility and 3 points for universality.

Age

Stimulus: Dogs, Human Trees

Irreversibility

Universality

Mean

S.D

Mean

S.D

4

       

7

       

10

       

Table 3

We will use SPSS 3 x 2 Anova to examine the scores. We predict that most of the 4-years old and 7-years old children could not understand the concept of irreversibility and universality of death. It is because they thought that death is just a temporary state and they thought that death is avoidable if you are lucky enough (Nagy, 1948). 10-years old children have mature understanding of these two key components of death.

References

Li-qi, Z., & Fu-xi, F. (2006). Perschool Children’s Understanding of Death. Chinese Journal of Clnical Psychology, 91-93.

Nagy, M. (1948). The Child’s Theories concerning Death. The Pedagogical Seminary and Journal of Genetic Psychology, 3-27.

Speece, M. W. (1995). Michigan Family Review. 57-69. Retrieved from Children’s Concepts of Death.

Speece, M. W., & Sandor B, B. (1984). Children’s Understanding of death: A review of Three Components of a Death Concept. Child Development, 1671-1686.

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