University of Leicester
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Adult reaction to parental death.

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posted on 2015-11-19, 08:57 authored by Ruth. Aherne
In this series of five questionnaire studies, an investigation was made into the kinds of fears and other feelings that adults had about dying, death, and grief. In the first two studies this was looked at in a general sense; then in the three subsequent studies the adult's loss of parents was specifically considered. In the first two studies it was found that subjects most feared the physical deterioration and pain of dying, particularly in relation to cancer, female subjects were more anxious than males about the death of others, and expected to feel a deeper sense of loss. When the next two studies were carried out, a fairly close parallel emerged between the ways in which the non-bereaved subjects anticipated feeling when their parents died, and the ways in which those who had already lost parents reported having felt; both at the time of the loss and later. Both sexes anticipated and experienced feeling more intense grief when the first parent died than when the second one did, whichever parent had been the first to die. The timeliness or untimeliness of the parental death was examined in the final questionnaire study. It was found that if the parent had died an untimely, early, death, while the subject was still in early adulthood, the grief reactions were initially more intense, and continued to be experienced at a higher intensity two or more years after the loss than was the case where a more timely death had occurred. These studies have put forward some evidence to show that the loss of parents in adult life constitutes a more important bereavement than was previously realised.


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University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

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  • PhD



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