Preschool Children’s Emotional Understanding of Death: A Forgotten Dimension
Keywords:Attitude to Death, Child, Preschool, Palliative Care, Psychology
Introduction: Scientific evidence regarding children’s understanding of the concept of death is scarce. This has recently been pointed out by the International Children’s Palliative Care Network as a priority area of research. In particular, the avoidance of emotion in this area of research is an important shortcoming. This study aims to develop an in-depth view of the emotional dimension of the child’s understanding of death, also seeking to relate it to the cognitive dimension.
Material and Methods: We interviewed children (three to six years old) using a book illustrating a hypothetical scenario in which a child faced the death of a relative. We asked questions to assess the cognitive subconcepts of death and the emotional dimension (what the child would feel and what parents should say).
Results: Of the 54 participants, the majority said that the child would feel sad (n = 46, 85%) and that parents should inform her/him (n = 47, 87%); these responses did not vary significantly with age. The cognitive understanding of the concept of death in children who reported sadness was significantly higher.
Discussion: Even the youngest children feel death, and it is not possible to disconnect cognitive and emotional understanding. Additionally, children should be informed in order to foster a proper and multidimensional elaboration of death.
Conclusion: This study provides valuable information to health professionals and other interested adults about the way preschoolers position themselves in relation to death.
How to Cite
All the articles published in the AMP are open access and comply with the requirements of funding agencies or academic institutions. The AMP is governed by the terms of the Creative Commons ‘Attribution – Non-Commercial Use - (CC-BY-NC)’ license, regarding the use by third parties.
It is the author’s responsibility to obtain approval for the reproduction of figures, tables, etc. from other publications.
Upon acceptance of an article for publication, the authors will be asked to complete the ICMJE “Copyright Liability and Copyright Sharing Statement “(http://www.actamedicaportuguesa.com/info/AMP-NormasPublicacao.pdf) and the “Declaration of Potential Conflicts of Interest” (http:// www.icmje.org/conflicts-of-interest). An e-mail will be sent to the corresponding author to acknowledge receipt of the manuscript.
After publication, the authors are authorised to make their articles available in repositories of their institutions of origin, as long as they always mention where they were published and according to the Creative Commons license.