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What do Roman Catholic children today understand about the concepts of death and the afterlife?

Coombes, Michael Idris 2022. What do Roman Catholic children today understand about the concepts of death and the afterlife? PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Background The researcher’s motivation was the question ‘What’s next?’, frequently heard when providing pastoral bereavement counselling. People want to know that there is ‘something’ after this life for the one they have lost. Many experience spiritual struggle, challenged by their understanding of the afterlife and failing to gain comfort from religious or spiritual beliefs to help them cope. The research examined causes rather than effects of spiritual struggle to understand why this condition exists. Investigating what children in primary school are taught and understand about death and the afterlife, ‘that part of theology concerned with judgement, and the final destiny of the soul and mankind’, it asked whether it adequately prepares people to cope with loss. Two concepts were explored: a) A ‘Golden Thread’ linking the adequate teaching of death and the afterlife to the ability to call on beliefs to cope; b) ‘Afterlife Belief Conflict’, an inability to reconcile taught beliefs with the actual experience of loss. Aims Four separate studies were undertaken on the teaching of death and the afterlife: Study 1 examined its effectiveness through the outcome of what is taught. Bereaved young people provided recollections of being taught, their understanding of death and the afterlife, and its contribution to their coping. Studies 2-4 considered the flow between the stages of its delivery to explain the findings in Study 1. Findings A hypothesis that the teaching of understandings about death and the afterlife is inadequate in preparing people for loss is supported. The research finds that with no specific focus on the subject in Religious Education, its inadequate teaching is ultimately a cause of Afterlife belief Conflict – cause and effect. With this finding, the research makes an original contribution to the knowledge of the teaching of understandings about death and the afterlife, adding to existing theory on the development of policy and practice of death and afterlife education to meet the needs of children, and faith- and school communities.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 18 March 2022
Date of Acceptance: 15 March 2022
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2023 02:30

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