An understanding of death includes the knowledge and acceptance that:
Death is universal
Death affects every living person and every living thing.
Death is inevitable
All people and all living things are mortal and will die one day.
Death is irreversible
There is no possibility of continued physical existence after death.
What is the difference in the understanding of death between adults and children?
A child's understanding of death
Children are cognitively not able to understand that death is universal, inevitable, and irreversible when they are young but develop a more mature understanding of death as they grow older.
Their understanding of death will differ according to their age, maturity, and personal experience of death.
An adult's understanding of death
A developed (adult) understanding of death includes knowledge and acceptance that:
Death is universal and it affects everyone.
Death is inevitable – we are all mortal.
Death is irreversible so there is no possibility of continued physical existence after death.
Watch a video
How much children understand about death will be different at different ages and stages of development. In the video below from Winston’s Wish, Annie describes the most common understandings of death by children of different ages and how to support children in their understanding at each stage of their development. It is important to remember that all children are unique and therefore, will respond to and understand death in their own unique way.
An article on the University of Rochester Medical Center website titled ‘A Child’s Concept of Death’ explains:
“Every child has his or her own concept of death. Past experiences with death, as well as age, emotional development, and surroundings are what most influence a child’s idea of death. Cartoons, movies, TV, video games, and even books are filled with images of death. The child may have experienced death of a family member, friend, or pet in the past.
An adult’s feelings and fear about death are often transferred to his or her children. Treating death as a part of life is hard. But it may help ease some of the fear and confusion linked with it.”
The article goes on to describe children’s ideas about death, according to common developmental ages, keeping in mind that children may be more or less mature in their thinking and processing information than others at a similar age. These stages are summarised for you in a chart in the following topic.
Click the icon above to read the full article online.
We’ve summarised the different stages in the development of a child’s understanding of death for you in the following topic…
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