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Children's Understanding of Death
From Biological to Religious Conceptions

$41.99 (C)

Rita Astuti, Paul L. Harris, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Margaret M. Mahon, Victoria Talwar, Miriam McCormick, Michael Schleiferi, Ray Madoff
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  • Date Published: July 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107531598

$ 41.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • In order to understand how adults deal with children's questions about death, we must examine how children understand death, as well as the broader society's conceptions of death, the tensions between biological and supernatural views of death, and theories on how children should be taught about death. This collection of essays comprehensively examines children's ideas about death, both biological and religious. Written by specialists from developmental psychology, pediatrics, philosophy, anthropology, and legal studies, it offers a truly interdisciplinary approach to the topic. The volume examines different conceptions of death and their impact on children's cognitive and emotional development and will be useful for courses in developmental psychology, clinical psychology, and certain education courses, as well as philosophy classes – especially in ethics and epistemology. This collection will be of particular interest to researchers and practitioners in psychology, medical workers, and educators – both parents and teachers

    • The first book to comprehensively examine children's ideas about death, both biological ideas as well as religious ideas
    • Written by specialists from developmental psychology, pediatrics, philosophy, anthropology and legal studies, this book offers a truly interdisciplinary approach
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "Children’s understanding of death is a fascinating topic, but difficult to study because of its troubling and taboo nature. This edited collection is the first of its kind, and it’s going to have a big impact. The essays are thoughtful, provocative, and well-written. They explore a variety of issues, including afterlife beliefs in other cultures, the relationship between children’s scientific and religious understanding, philosophical and legal issues, and the moving question of how to talk about death with children – including with those who are themselves dying. This is valuable reading for developmental psychologists, educators, and parents.”
    – Paul Bloom, Yale University

    “This landmark book offers a comprehensive new look at children’s understanding of death. Cross-cultural evidence, brought together here for the first time, shows that spiritual afterlife beliefs develop, not out of confusion, but as an addition to a natural understanding of death as the end of biological life. Consciousness of biological mortality lays the ground for ideas about spiritual immortality. Taking these two dimensions of understanding seriously, this volume brings together the work of experts in cognitive science, education, pediatrics, philosophy and law to offer an exceptionally wise, integrated review of the field. The book will be of interest to anyone who is interested in understanding and supporting children who are facing this core reality of the human condition.”
    –Carl Johnson, University of Pittsburgh

    “This is an incredibly important book. Hopefully, this diverse, interesting, and highly readable collection of essays will stimulate much-needed conversations among academics, educators, and parents that will serve to break down long-standing cultural taboos regarding death. The essays within this collection represent a breadth of knowledge and expertise from developmental psychology, pediatrics, philosophy, anthropology, and legal studies. This breadth and scope of expertise focused on children in diverse cultures and how they come to embrace and reason about death are remarkable.”
    –Karl S. Rosengren, Northwestern University

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107531598
    • length: 202 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 11 mm
    • weight: 0.3kg
    • contains: 8 b/w illus. 1 table
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Death, ancestors and the living dead: learning without teaching in Madagascar Rita Astuti
    2. Death in Spain, Madagascar, and beyond Paul L. Harris
    3. Ambivalent teaching and painful learning: mastering the facts of life Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi
    4. Death in the lives of children Margaret M. Mahon
    5. Talking to children about death in educational settings Victoria Talwar
    6. Responsible believing Miriam McCormick
    7. Thoughts and feelings: children and William James have it right! Michael Schleiferi
    8. How the law constructs its understanding of death Ray Madoff.

  • Editors

    Victoria Talwar, McGill University, Montréal
    Victoria Talwar is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology at McGill University. She is a graduate of the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and Queen's University, Canada. She specializes in the social development of young children. She has published numerous papers in various journals including Child Development, Developmental Psychology, Law and Human Behavior and the International Journal of Behavioral Development.

    Paul L. Harris, Harvard University, Massachusetts
    Paul L. Harris is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Education at Harvard University. He is a graduate of Sussex and Oxford Universities and has previously taught at the University of Lancaster, the Free University of Amsterdam, the London School of Economics, and Oxford University. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. A developmental psychologist with interests in the development of cognition, emotion and imagination, Harris is currently studying how young children learn about history, science and religion on the basis of what trusted informants tell them, rather than from firsthand observation. He is the author of The Work of the Imagination (2000).

    Michael Schleifer, Université du Québec, Montréal
    Michael Schleifer is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Quebec in Montreal. He is a graduate of Oxford University (Philosophy) and McGill University (Psychology). His past appointments include being Professor of Ethics at McGill University and Clinical Psychologist at the Montreal Children's Hospital Department of Psychiatry. He has published more than a hundred articles in philosophical, psychological and educational journals and has edited works on identity, cooperation, the development of judgment, morality and emotion. His latest books are Talking about Feelings and Values with Children (2006) and How to Have a Dialogue of Mutual Respect with your Teenager (2007).


    Rita Astuti, Paul L. Harris, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Margaret M. Mahon, Victoria Talwar, Miriam McCormick, Michael Schleiferi, Ray Madoff

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