Procaccia, R., Neimeyer, R. A., Veronese, G., & Castiglioni, M.
Children’s representations of death: The role of age and attachment style
This study investigates the influence of age and attachment (secure, anxious-ambivalent, avoidant, and disorganized) on children’s representations of death. One hundred primary-school children, whose attachment patterns were assessed using Separation Anxiety Test, completed Düss’ funeral fable. Top-down thematic content analysis was applied by coding the narrative data with respect to eight ad hoc dimensions (narrative structure, emotional content, reflective capacity, locus of control, spatial and temporal embedding, action, image of self, and image of others). Regression analyses showed age to predict aspects of narrative structure, and attachment to predict emotional contents. Analysis of variance and t-test results showed that secure attachment was associated with longer narratives, greater reflective capacity, affect, and positive representations of self; avoidant attachment with more detailed descriptions of context and less affectivity. Anxious attachment prompted negative emotions and references to irreversibility of death in the sense of an irreparable loss; disorganized attachment led to shorter narratives, bizarre and violent contents. Implications for clinical work and future lines of enquiry are discussed.
Testing, Psychometrics, Methodology in Applied Psychology, 2018, Vol. 25, pp. 549-569, DOI: 10.4473/TPM25.4.6