Date of Thesis

5-5-2014

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Chris Boyatzis

Abstract

The present study had three major aims. First, this study was a basic descriptive exploration of the frequency and nature of parent-child communication about death. Second, this study conducted a quantitative analysis to identify predictors of communication and bereaved children¿s emotional and behavioral problems. Third, this study was also a qualitative analysis of parents¿ descriptions of how religious views shape conversations about death and how conversations are beneficial. Based on prior research, it was predicted that positive child outcomes would be associated with parental warmth, religiosity, adaptive coping, positive religious coping, and frequent parent-child communication about death. Conversely, it was predicted that negative child outcomes would be associated with parental psychological control, maladaptive coping, negative religious coping, and less frequent parent-child communication about death. Additionally, it was hypothesized that parents¿ religious and spiritual views would shape parent-child communication about death, and parents would describe numerous benefits of discussing death with children. Parents completed a series of survey measures assessing their religiosity, coping strategies, parent-child communication about death, and their children¿s emotional and behavioral symptoms. Almost 80% of parent-child dyads discussed death at least once a week, and children initiated approximately half of these conversations. Parent-child communication about death was predicted by parents¿ warmth toward and acceptance of their children and inversely predicted by children¿s hyperactivity and social problem solving. Higher levels of children¿s social problem solving could predict lower frequency of parent-child communication about death if children were holding frequent, meaningful, and comforting conversations with friends and other adults. Higher levels of parents¿ psychological control predicted more emotional and behavioral problems in the child. Parents¿ adaptive coping had significant relationships with all of the dimensions of parent-child communication about death. Qualitative analyses revealed that parents perceived their religious beliefs as shaping conversations about death and grief as an individualized journey. A majority of parents described the emotional, social, and intellectual benefits of holding parent-child conversations about death. This study contributes to the literature by further describing parent-child communication about death, identifying its predictors, and investigating parents¿ religiosity and coping strategies in relation to child well-being. Overall, this study revealed the importance of assessing global parenting characteristics (i.e., warmth/acceptance and psychological control) when examining parent-child relationships and communication about death. Furthermore, this unique study illustrates the value of qualitative data when examining parent-child communication about death and religiosity.

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