Developmental Perception of Death and Death Anxiety

It seems like an odd question if asked randomly what death means to us or if we fear it. Nevertheless, even odder is how different age groups answer the same question. From young life until older life, our understanding of death evolves. Individuals' perspective on death is influenced by their intellectual growth, social mores, domestic obligations, and feelings.

Attitude towards Death and Dying

Anxiety in expectation of death is referred to as fear of death. Fearful anticipation is mostly caused by an inability to see the dying process in others. Death dread is caused by three direct determinants: past-related regret, future-related regret, and the meaningfulness of death. The impression of not having realized basic ambitions is referred to as past-related regret. The failure to meet basic aspirations in the future is referred to as future-related regret. Death's meaningfulness relates to an individual's perception of death as good or bad, as making sense or being meaningless. It is commonly known that most individuals wish to live as long as possible.

This is a human characteristic. All humans confront the prospect of aging, yet they cannot visualize their death. They can also not perceive themselves as genuinely elderly since change is unsettling to most people. Human integrity may be maintained by having an attitude of doing things for others, being helpful, and positively contributing to society. In order to maintain their dignity and integrity, the elderly must know that people support them and that they can rely on someone in times of need. The supporting task is to help the client understand the fundamental truths of life. Acceptance frequently leads to humility. Those that help others will have their lives strengthened and completed.

A person's life is directly affected by their positive attitude. Many harbor grudges against particular people because they believe they have damaged them. Learning to forgive and forget, as well as thinking optimistically, may help a person find peace. Forgiveness entails letting go of any desire for compensation. To bring serenity into one's own life, one must forgive. It promotes fresh spiritual and emotional development in a person. One frees up energy caught in the ineffective service of maintaining a grudge by letting go of resentment and blame.


Although, indeed, babies cannot understand death, infants can respond to the estrangement it causes. When babies are taken away from their mothers, they could become drowsy and silent, stop smiling or cooing, become slumberless, and exhibit medical concerns like losing weight.

Early Childhood

According to Piaget's preoperational phase of cognitive development, young children have trouble telling the difference between truth and fiction. Accordingly, it is not strange that young toddlers do not comprehend death. They assume that the individual is asleep, do not view death as final, believe it is transient or changeable, and imagine they can yearn for the person's revival. Moreover, they believe their improper behavior, inappropriate words, and sentiments may have contributed to the death.

Middle Childhood

While youngsters in middle childhood start to comprehend the inevitability of death, they could continue to engage in delusional thinking and imagine they can resurrect somebody until about nine. Additionally, people could feel ashamed and accountable for the tragedy since they believe they could have done something to stop it.

Late childhood

Kids of this age comprehend the finality of mortality and are aware that everyone, including themselves, will pass away. However, they might also believe that the departed committed a sin that caused their death. They could grow to dread losing their parents and carry on harboring remorse if a beloved individual dies.

Teenage years

Teenagers are just as aware of death as adults are. Adolescents can now speculate imaginatively about death, engage in philosophical discussion, and reflect on their nonexistence thanks to formal operational thinking. Some teenagers are fascinated with mortality and ponder their memorial by imagining what other people will think and feel. Although they are preoccupied with ideas of mortality, their unique adolescent fable makes them feel unaffected by death. As a result, individuals frequently participate in dangerous behaviors, including substance abuse, irresponsible sexual conduct, and negligent driving, because they believe they can do no wrong.

Early Adulthood

People's degree of worry and anxiety about dying varies as they age, and early adulthood's smaller average death rate contributes significantly to this group's reduced mortality fear levels. Early adults frequently believe they have a prolonged existence ahead of them and, as a result, do not often consider or fret about mortality.

Middle Adulthood

Compared to either earlier or later adulthood, middle adulthood is associated with greater fear of mortality. For people in middle adulthood, their caregiving obligations play a big part in their anxieties. Middle-aged people frequently help out their parents and kids and worry about being left alone to care for themselves.

Late Adulthood

Those with older life show lesser concerns of dying than other adults, defying the notion that due to their being so near mortality, they necessarily dread death. Why would this take place? First off, elderly folks are less concerned about abandoning families alone and have lesser parenting duties. Additionally, they have had additional time to finish their plans for their lifetimes, and they are aware that there will be fewer prospects for them in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, since they have previously suffered the expiration of beloved people and are more acclimated to the possibility of death, they are less anxious. Late adults are more concerned with having command over how they expire than with death itself.

Death and Old Age

In addition to creases, memory loss, and joint discomfort, aging also includes the awareness that one is dying and that time is running out. For older folks, recurring medical issues, losing loved ones, and declining cognitive function are signs that death is getting closer. According to the notion of terror management (TMT), the knowledge that death is inevitable significantly influences people's decisions and actions.

Terror Management Theory

  • Knowledge that death is inevitable

  • Possibility for paralysing horror is created by the human awareness of the impending death

  • Entity that is biologically geared toward survival

A significant body of evidence providing the evidential basis for TMT demonstrates that young adults' self-esteem aspirations and defense of their deeply held beliefs and ideals improve when they are reminded of their demise. According to TMT, the possibility of paralyzing horror is created by the distinctively human awareness of the impending death in an entity biologically geared toward survival. People are shielded from the dread that knowledge of death would normally bring about by holding fast to their conventional theologies and achieving self-esteem by upholding its precepts.

Cultural worldviews offer organized, significant, and long-lasting reality perceptions and ideals of significance that help people develop a perception of their self-worth. People are empowered to feel like they are exceptional beings characterized by persistence rather than just plain animals destined to exist because of the self-esteem they gain from thinking they are staying true to their internalized perceptions of their culture's ideals. They are manually constructed lexical formulations, and therefore belief in their veracity highly depends on other people's agreement with them. One's worldview and sense of self-worth grow in conviction and capacity to act as anxiety absorbers when others share them, act consistently with them, and think highly of them.

However, when others do not share one's worldview, disobey its rules, or have an unfavorable opinion of one, one's trust in these frameworks is undermined. They lose their capacity to keep us from feeling anxious. People respond positively to those who affirm their viewpoints and self-esteem and negatively to those who represent a danger due to their desire for protection against fear. A significant and expanding body of research supports the TMT hypothesis that one's perception of oneself as a valuable addition to a purposeful cosmos reduces the likelihood of death-related anxiety.

According to research, being reminded of one's mortality (also known as mortality salience) causes one to respond more favorably to others who share their worldview and less favorably to those who do not. One could expect elderly folks to constitute one of the greatest combative, hostile, and bigoted populations in civilization if considerations of expiration combined with threats to one's ideology and self-esteem make individuals increasingly protective, more confrontational, and less accepting of others who are different from them. This is not the scenario, however.

Many older persons, though not all, display outstanding emotional wellness and health as they age. Scholars have found that older people react less defensively and aggressively to stressful situations. They hypothesized that such a dearth of belligerence and antagonism might be due to older people's propensity to prevent confrontation and minimize it through repudiation or constructive reshaping.


While death is understood as a gradual progression of life, it is inevitable, and the fear it creates is sometimes extremely incapacitating for people. However, as we have seen, the same does not apply to youngsters. Our ideas and conceptions depend on many personal, social, biological, and other factors.

Updated on: 05-Apr-2023


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