Death, Children’s Conceptions of

Although death is a universal element of human existence, human conceptions of death can be elusive and complex. Local behaviors and beliefs related to death vary considerably across cultural contexts. Necessarily, children’s reasoning about death reflects distinctive practices and beliefs that are normative for their social group. A Mexican-American child brought up to believe that the dead return to interact with the living on each Day of the Dead celebration carries different ideas about the fixedness of mortality compared to a middle-class European American child. Early ideas about the afterlife and death among Japanese children are shaped by local religious traditions of Shintoism and Buddhism. Another source of complexity is that individual children vary in whether and how much they have been personally exposed to ...

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