Understanding of the Death Concept by Children Essay


Coming to phrases with one’s mortality is a struggling course of, and psychologists have an interest on this conceptual quandary’s early development. A full comprehension requires an understanding of dying’s 4 defining properties: universality, irreversibility, causality, and cessation of bodily processes. Researchers are particularly concerned with whether or not these 4 elements’ growth follows an total cognitive growth or relies on age alone. Thus, this evaluation generates the subject’s focal inquiries concerning the approximate age of idea acquisition. To reply these questions, literature that ranges over thirty years on youngsters’s growth of the dying idea is explored.

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The Four Cognitive Components of Death Examined

Most authors place the emergence of an early understanding of dying at across the three-year degree. Children this younger can partially perceive some points of dying, though their decrease cognitive functioning degree is mirrored in extremely concrete or selfish types of responses (Koocher, 2018). Kane (2019) discovered that the kid’s dying idea turns into articulate as extra elements are acquired and develop from absence to incomplete presence to finish presence. According to Gelman and Nguyen (2018, p. 495), “A coherent concept of death entails an understanding of four key concepts: inevitability, universality, causality, and finality.” Each examine examined a minimum of two of those important ideas, and all of them have been routinely acknowledged as the required constructing blocks for a kid’s full construal of dying.

There is a considerable discrepancy between every researcher’s findings for every element’s age of acquisition. Lazar and Turney-Purta (2018) stress that youngsters’s full understanding of dying idea growth requires every subconcept individually. They argue that learning the event of the idea of dying as an entire is inappropriate. The tendency to take action has led to incongruent findings amongst researchers through the years (Lazar and Turney-Purta, 2018). Each idea is printed beneath in a mutually unique vogue for readability.


The idea of universality entails the concept dying is common and inevitable and that there aren’t any exceptions. Nevertheless, younger youngsters will consider that sure actions may be taken to keep away from it. This is earlier than full comprehension of dying’s universality element (Harris, 2018). Generally, youngsters perceive that different folks will die earlier than they settle for it, and so they predict their dying to be within the far future when they’re previous. As a outcome, youngsters can not grasp the chance that their deaths can happen at any time.

Universality is a element that each researcher studied, usually asking the query, “Does everybody die?”. Unlike a number of the extra complicated elements, the decided age of universality acquisition is unanimous between researchers. This signifies that for a minimum of this particular facet of dying, age alone could also be ample in explaining the variance of understanding. Childers and Wimmer (2016), Koocher (2018), White, Elsom, and Prawat (1978), Lazar and Turney-Purta (2018), and Gelman and Nguyen (2018) all conclude that the age of acquisition for universality is between ages six and 7, the place vital variations are discovered compared to youthful youngsters.


The dying element of irreversibility entails the kid’s means to conceptualize that dying is everlasting and the lifeless by no means return to life (Lazar and Turney-Purta, 2018; Poling and Hupp, 2008). Young youngsters reply affirmatively about whether or not the lifeless issues can come again to life and the way they do it. They view dying as momentary and reversible and demand that the lifeless can return to life by means of medical intervention, ingesting water, or the train of prayer (Corr, 2007). Many younger youngsters additionally consider that dying may be undone. They see it as a peaceable sleep or a visit from which one can return.

Irreversibility develops extra spontaneously in youngsters than in universality internationally. It is difficult to confirm the age of acquisition based mostly on the research’ ambiguous outcomes. In distinction to universality findings, it doesn’t seem that irreversibility develops systematically by age maturity (Childers and Wimmer, 2016; White, Elsom, and Prawat, 1978). Childers and Wimmer (2016) and White, Elsom, and Prawat (1978) estimate that not till age ten do youngsters grasp the idea of irreversibility. Koocher (2018) and Lazar and Turney-Purta (2018) additionally state that this age is between six and 7. Kane (2019) and Gelman and Nguyen (2018) have outcomes supporting that youngsters as younger as 4 years of age can comprehend this idea. This has additionally been proved by different empirical analysis by Harvard and Yale students.

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Children should conceptualize the target causes of dying to grasp causality. White, Elsom, and Prawat (1978) discovered that some youngsters use immanent justice notions to elucidate dying. When studying youngsters a narrative a couple of imply older girl’s dying, twenty-two p.c of the topics attributed the reason for her dying to her unattractive conduct (White, Elsom, and Prawat, 1978). In normal, younger youngsters have a tendency to offer extra exterior causes of dying, akin to weapons or drowning, and fail to know the interior organic causes, for instance, illness or previous age. Many responses use Piagetian transmission errors when requested how one thing can die, answering causes. Sternlicht (1980) believes that that is the primary facet of dying to seem developmentally. He states that mentally disabled preoperational youngsters have fairly concrete and particular concepts of how dying happens (Longbottom and Slaughter, 2018). Kane (2019) and Lazar and Turney-Purta (2018) consider that six and seven-year-olds have mature concepts about causality, together with inner and exterior notions. Koocher (2018) finds the age of acquisition to be ten, and Gelman and Nguyen (2018) present that almost all four-year-olds can clarify how folks die.

Cessation of bodily processes (finality)

The idea of cessation is the understanding that every one organic, sensational, emotional, and cognitive capabilities stop at dying (Lazar and Turney-Purta, 2018). Some researchers contemplate cessation to be a extra difficult element to grasp at a younger age, and infrequently youngsters solely obtain a partial understanding of this idea (Von Drasek, 2016). In explicit, youngsters first consider that the lifeless have solely particular capabilities of dwelling issues however not all (Speece and Brent, 1984). Kane (2019) studied cessation extensively and means that youngsters understand sure capabilities and stop dying earlier than others. For instance, she discovered that youngsters had been extra more likely to attribute continued cognitive functioning, akin to dreaming, to the lifeless than to noncognitive functioning.

Many authors have researched to reply the query of what occurs after a person dies. Koocher (2018) discovered responses to the query “what will happen when you die?” had been primarily concrete or stereotyped accounts of what would occur. For instance, youngsters described detailed accounts of their funerals, descriptions of “rotting away in the grave,” and what it could be like in heaven (Koocher, 2018, p. 374). These responses assist that younger youngsters can conceptualize dying’s morbid actuality. They additionally usually state matter-of-fact particulars about dying that many adults discover scary to debate. Only three researchers have critically investigated cessation, which isn’t sufficient to succeed in a normal conclusion. Kane (2019) and Lazar and Turney-Purta (2018) each discover the age of acquisition to be between six and 7, whereas White, Elsom, and Prawat (1978) don’t credit score youngsters with this idea till age ten.

The Continuous or Discontinuous Development of the Death Concept

Researchers are concerned with how these ideas match right into a developmental sequence utilized to Piaget’s cognitive growth levels purported. Since age alone appears defective in figuring out how a baby comes to know dying, Piaget’s framework supplies a essentially extra managed and narrower mannequin to use knowledge (Stambrook and Parker, 1987). The debate over continuity and discontinuity is ongoing inside the subject of developmental psychology, and Piaget has had a profound and maybe overrated affect as a stage theorist. However, it’s all the time fascinating and illuminating to extrapolate these views and check in the event that they maintain up as broad and normal theories (Malcom, 2011). This part examines the connection of the dying idea with Piagetian cognitive levels, the 4 elements’ developmental hierarchy, and the affect of particular person expertise and animal and plant dying on idea formation.

The Relationship of Piagetian Cognitive Stages of Development and the Death Concept

The relationship between age and idea acquisition was demonstrated early on by Childers and Wimmer (2016). They carried out a examine that solely checked out age variations. They concluded that the attention of universality, however not irreversibility, was certainly a operate of age. It is obvious that the dying idea matures with age and that substantial adjustments happen between the ages of 5 and 7. However, the extent to which this growth parallels Piaget’s cognitive levels is unsure.

Piaget’s cognitive levels embrace the sensorimotor, preoccupation, concrete operational, and formal operational. The authors of the 4 research, Koocher (2018), White, Elsom, and Prawat (1978), Kane (2019), and Sternlicht (1980), had been robust proponents of the understanding that cognitive growth and never age alone determines youngsters’s idea of dying. Lee, Kim, Choi, and Koo (2014), who examined forty youngsters’s death-themed image books in East Asia and Western Europe, additionally be a part of the cohort of those scientists. These researchers divided their samples by cognitive stage degree by administering conservation exams as a substitute of age alone. Koocher (2018) was the primary to acknowledge the poor group and methodological inadequacies. Childers and Wimmer (2016) concentrate on the dying idea’s emotional growth. Koocher’s (2018) examine remedied these design flaws. Instead, it relied closely on a Piagetian theoretical framework. Koocher (2018, p. 376) discovered that “age alone doesn’t appear to be a sufficient basis on which to classify or group responses.” This examine yielded knowledge that explains each universality and irreversibility as depending on cognitive functioning ranges. It is famous how the “adherences to magical thinking and egocentricity described by Piaget (1960) influence children’s perceptions of death” (Koocher, 2018, p. 377). White, Elsom, and Prawat (1978) examine the adjustments that happen when youngsters transition from the preoperational to the concrete operational stage. They had been concerned with Piaget’s views on the ethical growth evident in sport enjoying for concrete operational youngsters. White, Elsom, and Prawat (1978, p. 307) reasoned that “comparably, it might be hypothesized that children at the concrete operational stage of development will understand that death must come to all people.” Understanding dying as common is regarded as associated to a better cognitive functioning degree and never merely age. Clement (2013) and White, Elsom, and Prawat (1978) confirmed their speculation that universality was associated to cognitive and ethical growth. Kane’s (2019) statistical evaluation discovered that 53% of the variance of idea growth was defined by age. She didn’t conduct conservation duties and as a substitute took as a right Piaget’s estimated age for getting into every stage as widespread information.

In evaluating her knowledge, she discovered a growth pattern that mirrored Piaget’s preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational levels. Stage certainly one of dying idea growth was characterised by selfish and magical pondering. Stage two meant incorporating logical thought and the power to carry ideas concurrently. Children may consider dying within the summary at stage three and perceive the interior causes. Kane (2019) famous that youngsters transfer by means of these levels from construction to operate to abstraction, which can be the order for kids to develop their classification techniques. Sternlicht (1980) modeled his examine after Koocher (2018) however used solely retarded youngsters as topics. He decided that each topic was preoperational because of their failure of conservation duties. He concluded that their responses revealed that they didn’t have ideas of dying’s irreversibility or ideas of once they would die at this low degree of cognitive functioning. Gutiérrez et al. (2014) attributed this to youngsters’s lack of ability to make use of reciprocal motion; a Piagetian precept deemed crucial to include others’ experiences with one’s personal. The topics ranged in age from ten to nineteen. Still, their preoperational degree of cognitive functioning restricted all of them, as a big share of their responses fell below the “egocentric” class.

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Emotional coaching is as important as cognitive coaching. If the dying occurs to somebody the kid loves, there is a chance to debate and validate emotions and introduce a nuanced emotional vocabulary. By processing grief with you, your youngster can study the 4 nice classes of feelings: Emotions are okay to have (they don’t have to be fastened, stopped, or modified), they’re transient (you may level out how the emotions come and go, how they alter whilst they’re taking place), they’ve names, and they’re embodied (you may level out the locations within the physique, abdomen, coronary heart, and throat the place emotion may be felt) (Wiseman, 2013). If the deceased just isn’t emotionally near your youngster (for instance, a lifeless sparrow), you need to use the expertise to show reverence, respect, and gravitas. Children usually take naturally to rituals surrounding dying. Emotional coaching can be a chance to coach you in endurance. Validate that your youngster needs issues had been totally different, even when it seems like a little bit of a loop.

Life is a state of turning into, and dying is part of this strategy of turning into. It is significant to have open communication together with your youngster on the difficulty of dying (Corr, 2004). This is a compound topic, particularly when our youngster or somebody is near us whom we love very a lot. To see a baby grieve is painful to look at but, it’s a part of life. This first level will enable you the chance to debate dying earlier than the dying of a detailed member of the family or good friend happens. And like many different topics, how the dad and mom react shall be necessary in instructing your youngster (Gutiérrez et al., 2014). If the mum or dad reacts to dying with wholesome grief, understanding it’s the pure development of life will assist your youngster perceive and settle for this example healthily and appropriately. Moreover, Corr (2004b; 2009) and Drasek (2016) advocate studying helpful literature containing the displays of kids overcoming death-associated conditions, together with the lack of pets. Know that once you introduce the idea of dying to a baby, you might be primarily additionally introducing the idea of being alive (Evans, 2014). Death is what supplies us with the body of reference for Life. Anyone with publicity to youngsters will know that they’re extremely inquisitive throughout particular developmental durations. These speedy info processing types are available levels, with every being totally different from the earlier, however every introduces a considerable amount of change to him and his psyche (Gutiérrez et al., 2014). You should ask your self how this idea will have an effect on her or him, how the particular person’s loss will have an effect on her or him, and whether or not he can course of it healthily. Death ought to be understood by a dwelling factor anyway as a result of it’s wired into their brains. Every dwelling organism’s major intuition is survival, which is to avoid dying.

The Subcomponents’ Sequential Hierarchy of Development

Some of the researchers had been concerned with growing elements and whether or not some had been the extra fundamental stipulations to understanding extra subtle ones. Most of the analysis signifies that youngsters’s universality is extensively understood, whereas the opposite elements’ outcomes are too nebulous to research with certainty. Gelman and Nguyen (2018) don’t see a exact developmental sequence, and so they reiterate: “Research suggests that the death components develop at different rates and the development of one component is not necessarily contingent upon another” (p. 495). In the following paragraphs, Kane’s (2019) efforts and Lazar and Turney-Purta’s (2018) research that integrated a separate investigation of the hierarchical development shall be thought-about. Kane (2019) divides dying idea formation into three levels, in step with Piagetian cognitive levels. She argues, “one stage grows out of and subsumes the one before it in a slowly evolving developmental process” (p. 150). There was growth inside every stage, strongly equivalent to preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational development. The order she suggests finds universality, irreversibility, causality, and cessation to develop collectively by age six (Poling and Hupp, 2016f). Understanding the extra difficult points of cessation, for instance, cognitive functioning doesn’t absolutely come about till age eight. To higher perceive the order of growth, Lazar and Turney-Purta (2018) used statistical evaluation of their knowledge. They discovered that many paths for the event sequence are doable for a kid to take. The ideas of universality and irreversibility had been developed first independently of each other, and a baby both comprehends causality or cessation (Osvath, 2020). This doesn’t maintain for the event of kids’s idea of animal dying, for which a baby first understands cessation earlier than any of the others. The examine consequence’s precise growth is sporadic for sequences supplied to have convincing goodness of match.

The Influence of Individual Experiences on Concept Acquisition

Few researchers contemplate the consequences of kids’s particular person experiences with dying on their understanding. After dividing up her pattern based mostly on expertise degree, decided by a mum or dad questionnaire, Kane’s (2019) outcomes present that when analyzing this variable of kids’s particular person dying experiences, youngsters expertise accelerated idea growth solely in these six-year-old or beneath. Childers and Wimmer (2016) had youngsters draw or write what dying meant to them to really feel for the experiences youngsters affiliate with their dying idea. There appeared all kinds of experiences with dying, “from squashing bugs to the death of a parent” (Childers and Wimmer, 2016, pp. 1300-1301). However, Childers and Wimmer (2016) concluded that have has no vital relationship with greater ranges of idea achievements. Regardless of their restricted direct expertise with dying, it seems that youngsters are integrating concepts and experiences and are growing an understanding of associated subconcepts.

Towards a Biological Understanding: The Case of Animals and Plants

Children’s biology principle might not be superior sufficient to incorporate animals and people on the identical aircraft the place dying is concerned. Lazar and Turney-Purta (2018) discovered that youngsters perceive all the subconcepts aside from cessation higher associated to human and never animal dying. Perhaps cessation is extra snug to grasp when referred to animals as a result of youngsters have extra precise visible experiences with an animal’s dying. Johnson (2004) centered their analysis on 4 and six-year-old talents in making use of the elements of dying to plant varieties. They first interviewed youngsters in regards to the dying elements of flowers, weeds, and bushes. In a second experiment, the researchers had youngsters level to drawings of crops and artifacts to find out if they may inform the variations between animate and inanimate objects. In a last check, they instantly in contrast the kids’s dying ideas of crops with animals (Delisle and Woods McNamee, 2007). This examine’s distinctive factor is the researcher’s comparability of all 4 and six-year-old responses to actual grownup solutions attained from undergraduate psychology college students. Every different analysis had beforehand assumed {that a} “mature” understanding of dying was impeccable within the organic definition. Many adults didn’t meet all the standards for absolutely comprehending every element of dying because it applies to crops and animals.

Methods of Research: How to Account for Variances and Contradictions

The inconsistencies discovered amongst researchers for the age of acquisition have made it difficult to succeed in overarching conclusions on the subject. Much of the issue is due a minimum of partially to the other ways researchers have structured and assessed their knowledge. The extra present authors are likely to prelude their research with accusations and criticism of the prior analysis. In a assessment of the literature, Speece and Brent (1984) state that for a minimum of some youngsters, “dead” and “alive” might not even be considered as distinct states. Therefore, concluding that younger youngsters suppose the lifeless are purposeful or can come again to life might credit score a few of them with extra differential ideas of alive and lifeless than they possess. Some research are additionally arbitrary in how they measure and accredit understanding, and lots of are unstructured in design.

How the Components Are Measured

Considerable variability in outcomes could also be due partially to variations in assessing a baby’s understanding of every element. To decide idea mastery throughout an interview with a baby, some solely required a sure/no response to such questions as “does everybody die?” White, Elsom, and Prawat (1978) requested youngsters to justify their solutions to depend as appropriate. As anticipated, some youngsters couldn’t present solutions for “why,” aside from false ones that they made up on the spot below strain. Even although it was doubtless that they didn’t consider their reasoning, White, Elsom, and Prawat (2019) assumed that they did of their conclusions. White, Elsom, and Prawat’s (1978) examine discovered the age of acquisition for the elements of irreversibility and cessation to be ten years, the oldest age instructed by any researchers.

While activity problem might skew outcomes, one other downside is the researcher’s differing and arbitrary necessities in figuring out the acquisition age. White, Elsom, and Prawat (1978) outline the age of acquisition for universality to be age seven as a result of 67% of seven-year-olds appropriately answered the questions. Koocher (2018) says that universality is known by age six, as evidenced by 91% of his six-year-olds demonstrating proficiency within the idea. According to Kane’s (2019) topics, 64% of five-year-olds perceive universality. The query of the place to attract the road must be reassessed.

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Design Flaws

Cross-Sectional vs. Longitudinal

The software of the longitudinal method has been adopted by a couple of researchers. Lazar and Turney-Purta (2018) had been the one researchers to make use of a short-term longitudinal method as a substitute of a cross-sectional one. Their introduction makes the purpose, that “previous studies used cross-sectional samples, which did not allow for the analysis [of a pattern of development]” (Lazar and Turney-Purta, 2018, p. 1323). This examine pattern included 99 six and seven-year-olds examined twice over seven months. Significantly, Lazar and Turney-Purta (2018) demonstrated that adjustments happen inside solely seven months, with many youngsters exhibiting mastery of a lot of the subconcepts at time two. While each subconcept confirmed upward motion from the time one to time two, essentially the most appreciable adjustments occurred to the understanding of universality, cessation, and causality (Leavy et al., 2020). The longitudinal design enabled the elements to be studied as impartial models of a associated theme. Their growth might be tracked and extra exactly associated to a normal developmental sequence if one exists.

Open-Ended and Leading Questions

One flaw with earlier analysis is that summary, open-ended questions had been used to evaluate the kid’s understanding of dying. Moreover, youngsters perceive rather more than they will specific verbally (Lazar and Turney-Purta, 2018). The duties could also be too troublesome, and too particular, and a few interviews embrace biased main questions. The early research tended to make use of unstructured questionnaires and interviews that assorted vastly from each other. Piaget’s strategies have regularly been criticized for utilizing open-ended questions and difficult duties. By designing new strategies, modern psychologists garner youthful and youthful youngsters to be able to extra superior cognitive exercise. The similar pattern seems to carry within the dying idea. The more moderen and sophisticated research, which management extra variables and focus the interview questions in a extra structured method, have yielded youthful youngsters extra credit score for his or her understanding of elements.

Unrepresentative Populations

It is necessary to notice that all the research unanimously use small samples that lack variety. Lazar and Turney-Purta (2018) clarify that many research use extra extremely selective samples than in different analysis areas because of the subject’s sensitivity. The majority of oldsters had been reluctant to permit their youngsters to check probing questions on dying. Sternlicht’s (1980) analysis included solely fourteen mentally disabled youngsters, and most of the responses weren’t included within the evaluation as a result of judges couldn’t attain a consensus on classifying solutions. As a outcome, his knowledge is undermined within the subject (Malafantis, 2013). Most of the opposite research, even people who checked out massive age ranges, didn’t have samples that exceeded 100. Usually, there have been lower than twenty topics to signify one age group. Additionally, the information signify white, city, middle-class youngsters of common or above intelligence.

Over-Reliance on Piagetian Stages

Many researchers on this space have tried to combine the idea of dying right into a Piagetian framework with out contemplating different points (Lazar and Turney-Purta, 2018). Many research are inherently restricted in scope by accepting Piaget’s levels as unified constructions. The researchers who tried to suit their outcomes into neat levels might have been too preoccupied with this objective to think about different choices and will have ignored different compelling knowledge that was supplied. Researchers fail to elucidate why there appears to be preoperational, or “nonconserved,” who may appropriately reply to questions on dying earlier than they reached the supposed concrete operational stage.


These knowledge recommend that almost all youngsters of all ages obtain a minimum of some understanding of every element. All of the elements are comprehended concurrently – between ages 5 and 7. This is across the transition from the preoperational to the concrete operational stage of cognitive growth. Thus, each age and Piagetian levels appear to foretell a baby’s degree of understanding about dying. It is troublesome to find out a hierarchy for kids’s growth below such circumstances. It may be argued from the information that universality and irreversibility seem first. It additionally could also be crucial earlier than one can perceive causality or cessation. It might speed up idea formation in youthful youngsters. Age six can be when youngsters are proven to have a completely organic conception of dying. They can admire dying’s position in all organic entities, together with animals and crops. It has been emphasised that the outcomes from these research are vastly ambiguous and contradictory. This could also be because of unexpected errors in methodology, and future analysis ought to word previous shortcomings to place forth extra dependable knowledge.


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