University of Rhode Island
Mentor: Alison K. Esler, Assitant Professor of Psychology
Attitudes Towards Death and Dying in the Professional Community
What do we fear when we fear death? Although this question would seem fundamental to the study of death anxiety, it was in fact treated as relatively unimportant during the initial 25 years of empirical research in this area. Templer began research on the concept of death anxiety in the mid-60's. At this time, death and consequently death anxiety was a taboo topic with behavioral scientists and mental health professionals. Kubler-Ross's (1969) book on death and dying played a pivotal role in the growing popularity of death awareness as a topic of for empirical research. According to Feitel (1990), the events of World War II and the impact of humanistic/existential psychologists have helped thrust death research to the forefront.
There are few empirical reports, if any, documenting the fears of individuals in professions other than physicians. The current study proposes to assess levels of death anxiety among a variety of professions and students in the New Hampshire area. The goal of this study is to utilize a questionnaire to assess differences in attitudes about death for various professional and non-professional groups. The questionnaire includes the Multidimensional Fear of Death Scale (Walkey, 1982) that contained eight distinguishable factors: fear of the dying process, fear of the dead, fear of being destroyed, fear of significant others they will leave behind, fear of the unknown, fear of conscious death, fear of the body after death, and fear of premature death. An additional survey was created to collect demographic including profession, religiosity, gender, and education. The results from this research will illustrate the importance of death education to more effectively assist individuals in dealing with death on a personal and/or professional level.