Title page for ETD etd-01312007-120756

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Smith, Philip Alexander
URN etd-01312007-120756
Document Title Senior primary school children's experience of the death of a parent : guidelines for assisting bereaved children
Degree PhD (Educational Psychology)
Department Educational Psychology
Advisor Name Title
Prof L J Jacobs Committee Chair
  • children and death psychological aspects
  • parents death psychological aspects
  • grief in children
  • bereavement in children
Date 2000-09-01
Availability unrestricted
Sufficient evidence exists to suggest that the death of a parent during the formative years of a child, which includes the senior primary school years, can have a devastating impact on the child's adjustment. Present available statistics in South Africa also suggest that many more school-going children will loose their parents over the next number of years due to a number of environmental factors, and also especially as a result of terminal illnesses such as HIV/AIDS. It was against this background that the study was undertaken.

The problem is formulated as follows:

  • what factors and corresponding experiences influence the adjustment of senior primary school children who have been bereft of a parent?
  • what guidelines can be prescribed to effectively assist children who have been bereft of a parent?
  • to identify and describe bereaved senior primary school children's perceptions of the death of a parent in terms of related factors and corresponding experiences; and
  • to describe guidelines for assisting children who have been bereft of a parent based on the findings of the research.

Because the research is aimed at an in-depth study of the factors and corresponding experiences of bereaved children, the qualitative research methodology is employed. Data is obtained through conducting phenomenological interviews, as well as through direct observation of the bereaved subjects during the interviews. The data is analyzed according to the descriptive research approach.

The present empirical research findings are compared with relevant accessible available literature, and unique contributions emerging from the present research is identified. Themes from the present empirical research as well as from the literature study are identified, and these themes form the basis for describing guidelines for the assistance of bereaved children.

The present empirical research findings suggest that the support systems of bereaved children are generally not very effective in terms of facilitating the bereavement process of these children. This conclusion was reached as a result of the bereaved children's descriptions of the factors and corresponding experiences related to the death of their parent, during the interviews only, and not through any contact with the support systems, which was beyond the scope of this study.

The problem is that although the relevant support systems are available, they don't appear to be very effective in their assistance of bereaved children. Certain components of the relevant support systems also don't appear to be adequately equipped/qualified for their supportive task in these circumstances. The literature suggests that some support systems appear to be uncertain regarding the supportive role that they can play or are expected to play. There also appears to be somewhat inadequate communication and cooperation between the various support systems.

Against this background, the suggestion is that a collective, well-organized, well-coordinated approach should be established, in which all the support system components are well qualified and well equipped, and in which they all cooperate in assisting bereft children so that their adjustment does not restrict their normal development.

© 2000 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Smith, PA 2000, Senior primary school children’s experience of the death of a parent : guidelines for assisting bereaved children, PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-01312007-120756/ >


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