Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Human Development, Consumer and Family Sciences

First Advisor

Joseph M. White


An explorative study was conducted to try and understand how young children’s emerging death concepts form including, (a) what family demographics and child factors contributed to family well-being, (b) did family well-being influence children’s social competence, and (c) did family well-being and children’s social competence influence children’s death conceptions. Although the subject of death contains many unique characteristics, it is not easily separated from other aspects of life; death is inseparable from the whole human experience (DeSpelder & Strickland, 2002). It was the assumption of this paper that children develop their conceptions of death based on the appreciation they hold for life; based on children’s growth in pro-social behavior, self-worth, spirituality, values, and morals. The results indicated positive correlations between family spirituality and family pro-social behavior with a children’s general social adaptation, as well as children’s social competence and their death concepts as indicated through their artwork. In addition, several qualitative themes of children’s death concepts emerged including friendship-like relationships with God and visions of Heaven and Hell. Most importantly noted were the associations between parent and child death concepts.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Children and death
Children -- Attitudes
Child psychology


Includes bibliographical references


South Dakota State University


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