Swedish and U.S. children's thinking about death: a qualitative study and cross-cultural comparison

Claes-Göran Wenestam, Hannelore Wass

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16 Citeringar (Scopus)


The objective of this study was two-fold: (a) to investigate the qualitative differences in children's death-related thinking regardless of nationality, and (b) to discover what qualitative differences exist between Swedish and U.S. children in their concepts of death. Phase I of the study included a sample of 316 Swedish and U.S. children, ages 4-19, 53 percent of which were girls. Phase II consisted of a cross-cultural comparison of 124 Swedish and 122 U.S. children matched for age and sex. The children participated in this study as intact classroom groups. They were asked to draw what they thought of when they heard the word “death”, or, in the case of the young children, the word “dead”. They were also asked to give a brief verbal commentary on what they had drawn. Each child's drawing and comments were analyzed as a unit. The drawings were assigned to one of ten qualitatively different categories identified post hoc. The categories were found to be age-related and in accord with previous studies of the development of concepts of death in children. The cross-cultural comparison indicated considerable similarities in the qualities of Swedish and U.S. children's depictions of death. Some cross-cultural differences were also observed, but these are differences in frequency or emphasis rather than in quality of depictions. More Swedish children depicted cultural and religious practices and symbols, whereas more U.S. children depicted violent causes of death. Possible explanations of these differences are suggested, and recommendations for future cross-cultural research in this area are made.

Sidor (från-till)99-121
Antal sidor22
TidskriftDeath Studies
StatusPublicerad - 1987
Externt publiceradJa

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  • Psykologi (501)
  • Samhällsvetenskap (5)


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