The effect of the death of an immediate family member on a child's perception of God: a mixed methods study
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SubjectChildren and death--Religious aspects--Christianity
Bereavement in children--Religious aspects--Christianity
The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between children’s grief and their perceptions of God by utilizing children’s drawings. This research was conducted by partnering with Christian counselors and teachers who interviewed two groups of children to collect data. Counselors interviewed the experimental group of children who were between the ages of 6-12 and had experienced the death of an immediate family member. Teachers interviewed the control group of children who were between the ages of 6-12 and had not experienced the death of an immediate family member. Both groups were asked specific questions in efforts to ascertain if children in the midst of grief perceived God differently. A multilevel triangulation design was used in this study with the first phase being qualitative and the second quantitative. In phase one, both the experimental group and control group of children were each interviewed and asked to respond to these questions by drawing their answers. Upon completion of the drawings, each child was asked a series of follow-up questions in efforts to provide explanations for their drawings. Select demographic information was also collected as a part of the interview process. Phase 2 utilized a quantitative approach. A panel of raters was assigned with the task of looking for specified, coded patterns or images in each child’s drawn or verbal response. Each panel member received a description of characteristics for which to look, as well as a Thurstone scale to assess the frequency of the characteristics. Upon evaluation, this data was sent back to the researcher for anecdotal analysis. The qualitative data was collected and the results were analyzed utilizing two statistical analyses methods including a Mann-Whitney test and a four-way ANOVA. While the Mann-Whitney was used to determine the correlation between death and a child’s perception of God, the ANOVA was performed to analyze the role demographics played in children’s perception of God after they experienced a parental or sibling death. Findings from the analyses are discussed in terms of implications for future research as well as possible applications for the research.