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A Sociocultural Approach to Children’s Perceptions of Death and Loss

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Yang, S.; Park, S.

By employing the phenomenographic approach, the present study explored children’s cognitive understanding of and emotional responses to death and bereavement. Participants included 52 Korean, 16 Chinese, and 16 Chinese American children ages 5-6. Thematic analysis of children’s drawings and open-ended interviews revealed that most children associated death with negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, and sadness. The majority of children used realistic expressions to narrate death. The core themes from their drawings included causes for death, attempts to stop the dying, and situations after death. This study contributes to the literature by targeting young children who have been relatively excluded in death studies and provides evidence in the usefulness of drawings as a developmentally appropriate data collection tool. The findings also enrich our knowledge about children’s understanding of death and bereavement, rooted in the inductive analysis of empirical data with children from culturally diverse backgrounds.

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