Preschool Children’s Emotional Understanding of Death: A Forgotten Dimension

Authors

  • Filipa Martins Silva Departamento de Pedopsiquiatria e Saúde Mental da Infância e Adolescência. Centro Hospitalar Universitário do Porto. Porto. https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2176-9129
  • Ana Filipa Lopes Departamento de Pedopsiquiatria e Saúde Mental da Infância e Adolescência. Centro Hospitalar Universitário do Porto. Porto.
  • Vânia Carneiro Departamento de Psicologia Clínica e da Saúde. Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas. Universidade Fernando Pessoa. Porto.
  • Álvaro Campelo Faculdade de Ciências Humanas e Sociais. Universidade Fernando Pessoa. Centro em Rede de Investigação em Antropologia (CRIA). Porto.

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.20344/amp.12815

Keywords:

Attitude to Death, Child, Preschool, Palliative Care, Psychology

Abstract

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.

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Published

2020-10-01

How to Cite

1.
Martins Silva F, Lopes AF, Carneiro V, Campelo Álvaro. Preschool Children’s Emotional Understanding of Death: A Forgotten Dimension. Acta Med Port [Internet]. 2020 Oct. 1 [cited 2022 Dec. 7];33(10):649-56. Available from: https://www.actamedicaportuguesa.com/revista/index.php/amp/article/view/12815

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Section

Original