The notion of death as a knowledge and research object in developmental psychology


  • Ramiro TAU Universidad Nacional de La Plata
  • Alicia María LENZI Universidad Nacional de La Plata



Death; Knowledge; Cognitive development; Social Representations.


In the present work we analyse the theoretical attention that human sciences have given to prac-tices regarding death in the search for a definition of what is specifically human. We revise fun-damental lines of questioning and perspectives resultant of considering death as a cognitive object. Following this line, we present the general characteristics of several studies in the field of developmental psychology, amongst which we include our own theoretical affiliation regarding the child’s comprehension of death. This perspective is developed within the theoretical frame-work of Piagetian genetic psychology coordinated with Moscovici’s social representations theo-ry, in an attempt to overcome classic dichotomies and to avoid disregarding the specificity of the production of ideas in particular sociocultural contexts.


ÁLVARO, J. L.; GARRIDO, A. Psicología social: Perspectivas psicológicas y sociológicas. Madrid: McGraw-Hill, 2007.
ANTHONY, S. A study of the development of the concept of death. British Journal of Educational Psychology. v. 9, p. 276-277, 1939.
ANTHONY, S. The child’s discovery of death. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1940.
ARIÈS, P. Essais sur l’Histoire de la Mort en Occident du Moyen Age á nos Jours. París: Seuil,
Volume 7 Número 1 – Jan-Jul/2015 62
ISSN: 1984-1655
ARIÈS, P. L´Homme devant la mort. Paris: Seuil, 1977.
AULAGNIER, P. Remarques sur le masochisme primaire, Arc. v. 34, p. 47-54, 1968.
BIANK, N. M.; WERNER-LINN, A. Growing up with grief: revisiting the death of a parent over
the life course. Omega. Journal of Death and Dying. v. 63, n. 3, p. 271-290, 2011.
BLACK, D.; URBANOWICZ, M. A. Family intervention with bereaved children. Association for
child psychology and psychiatry review & newsletter. v. 28, p. 467-476, 1987.
BOLDUC, J. A developmental study of the relationship between experiences of death and age
and development of the concept of death. Doctoral Dissertation, Columbia University, Ann
Arbor, Michigan, 1972.
BONOTI, F.; LEONDARI, A.; MASTORA, A. Exploring Children's Understanding of Death:
Through Drawings and the Death Concept Questionnaire. Death Studies. v. 37, n. 1, p. 47-60,
CASTORINA, J. A. Cultura y conocimientos sociales. Desafíos a la psicología del desarrollo.
Buenos Aires: Aique, 2007.
CASTORINA, J. A. Gerard Duveen: un enfoque dialéctico para relacionar la teoría de las representaciones sociales y la psicología del desarrollo. Psicologia da educaçao, São Paulo. v. 29, p. 7-
26, 2009.
CASTORINA, J. A.; BAQUERO, R. J. Dialéctica y psicología del desarrollo. El pensamiento de
Piaget y de Vigotsky. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu Editores, 2005.
CASTORINA. J. A., BARREIRO, A.; CLEMENTE, F. El conocimiento de los niños sobre la sociedad según el constructivismo y la teoría de las representaciones sociales. In: CASTORINA, J. A.
(Coord.). Construcción conceptual y representaciones sociales. El conocimiento de la sociedad.
Buenos Aires- Madrid: Miño y Dávila, 2005. p. 177-204.
CASTORINA, J. A.; LENZI, A. M.; FERNÁNDEZ, S. Alcances del método de exploración crítica
en psicología genética. In: CASTORINA, J. A.; FERNÁNDEZ, S.; LENZI, A. M. et al. Psicología
Genética. Aspectos metodológicos e implicancias pedagógicas. Buenos Aires: Miño y Dávila,
1984. p. 83-118.
CERIANI CERNADAS, C. Notas histórico-antropológicas sobre las representaciones de la
muerte. Archivos Argentinos de Pediatría. v. 99, n. 4, p. 328-336, 2001.
CHILDERS, W.; WIMMER, M. The concept of death in children. Child Development. v. 42, p.
1299-1301, 1971.
COHEN, J. A.; MANNARINO, A. P.; DEBLINGER, E. Treating trauma and traumatic grief in
children and adolescents. New York: The Guilford Press, 2006.
COOLEY, C. H. Human nature and the social order. New York: Scribner’s, 1902.
COTTON, C.; RANGE, L. M. Children´s death Concepts: Relationship to Cognitive Functioning,
Age, Experience With Death, Fear of death, and Hopelessness. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology. v. 19, p. 123-129, 1990.
DELVAL, J.; KOHEN, R. La comprensión de nociones sociales. En: CARRETERO, M.; CASTORINA, J. A. (comps.). Desarrollo cognitive y educación II. Buenos Aires: Paidós, 2012.
DOISE, W.; DESCHAMPS, J. C.; MUGNY, G. Psicología social experimental. Barcelona: Hispano Europea, 1985.
DUVEEN, G. Psychological development as a social process. In: SMITH, L.; DOCKRELL, J.;
TOMLINSON, P. (eds.). Piaget, Vigotsky and beyond. London: Routledge, 1997.
Volume 7 Número 1 – Jan-Jul/2015 63
ISSN: 1984-1655
ELKIND, D. Life and Death. Concepts and feelings of children. In: ELKIND, D. The child and
society. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.
EMLER, N.; DICKINSON, E. (1993). Studying social representations in children: just old wine in
new bottles? In: BREMAWEIL, G.; CUNTER, D. (eds.). Empirical approaches to social representations. Oxford: Clander Press, 1993.
FERREIRO, E.; GARCÍA, R. Presentación a la edición castellana. In: PIAGET, J. Introducción a la
Epistemología Genética, Tomo 1. Buenos Aires: Paidós, 1975. p. 9-23.
FREUD, S. Jenseits des Lustprinzips. Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag, 1920.
FREUD, S. Das Ich und das Es. Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag, 1923.
GIL-LACRUZ, M. Psicología social. Un compromiso aplicado a la salud. Zaragoza: Universidad
de Zaragoza, 2007.
GOFFMAN, E. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Doubleday Anchor Books,
GOFFMAN, E. Asylums: essays on the social situation of mental patients and other inmates.
New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1961.
GUY, H. Exploratory study of elementary-aged children's conceptions of death through the use
of story. Death Studies. v. 17, n. 1, p. 27-54, 1993.
HIGGINS, S. Death education in the primary school. International Journal of Children's Spirituality. v. 4, n. 1, p. 77-90, 1999.
INHELDER, B. ; BOVET, M. ; SINCLAIR, H. Apprentissage et structures de la connaissance.
Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1974.
JODELET, D. Représentations sociales: phénomènes, concepts et théorie. In : MOSCOVICI, S.
Psychologie Sociale. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1984.
JODELET, D. Les représentations sociales dans le champ de la culture. Information sur les Sciences Sociales. v. 41, n. 1, p. 111-133, 2002.
KANE, B. Children´s concepts of death. The Journal of Genetic Psychology. v. 134, p. 141-153,
KASTENBAUM, R. The psychology of death. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2000.
KAZDIN, A. E.; FRENCH, N. H.; UNIS, A. S.; ESVELDT-DAWSON, K.; SHERICK, R. B. Hopelessness Scale for Children, depression, and suicidal intent among psychiatrically disturbed
inpatient children [HSC, Hopelessness Scale for Children]. Journal of Consulting and Clinical
Psychology. v. 51, p. 504-510, 1983.
KLEIN, M. The psychoanalysis of children. London: Hogarth Press, 1932.
KÜBLER-ROSS, E. On Death and Dying. New York: The Mcmillan Company, 1971.
LENZI, A. M.; CASTORINA, J. A. La formación de los conocimientos sociales en los niños. Investigaciones psicológicas y perspectivas educativas. Barcelona: Gedisa, 2000.
LENZI, A. M.; TAU, R. La comprensión de la muerte en los niños. Una mirada desde lo real, lo
posible y lo necesario. Revista de Psicología, Segunda época. v. 12, p. 145-164, 2011.
LÉVI-STRAUSS, C. Les structures élémentaires de la parenté. Paris: Éditions de l'École des hautes études en sciences sociales, 1949.
LÉVI-STRAUSS, C. La pensé sauvage. París: Librairie Plon, 1962.
Volume 7 Número 1 – Jan-Jul/2015 64
ISSN: 1984-1655
MAHON, M. M.; GOLDBERG, E. Z.; WASHINGTON, S. K. Concept of death in a sample of
Israeli kibbutz children. Death Studies. v. 23, n. 1, p. 43-59, 1999.
MARKUSEN, E.; FULTON, R. Childhood bereavement and behavior disorders: a critical review. Omega. Journal of Death and Dying. v. 2, p. 107-117, 1971.
MEAD, G. H. Mind, self, and society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934.
MORIN, E. L'Homme et la mort. Paris: Seuil, 1970.
MOSCOVICI, S. La psychanalyse, son image et son public. Paris: Presses Universitaires de
France, 1961.
MOSCOVICI, S. Foreword. In: HERZLICH, C. Health and Illness. London: Academic Press,
MOSCOVICI, S.; JOVCHELOVITCH, S.; WAGONER, B. (eds.). Development as a social process.
Contributions of Gerard Duveen. USA-Canada: Routledge, 2013.
NAGY, M. H. The child´s view of death. In: FEIFEL, H. The meaning of death. New York:
McGraw-Hill Paperbacks, 1948, p. 79-98.
OVERTON, W. F. A relational and embodied perspective on resolving psychology´s antinomies. In: CARPENDALE, J. I. M.; MÜLLER, Ü. (Eds.). Social interaction and the development of
knowledge. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004, p. 19-44.
OVERTON, W. F. Developmental psychology: Philosophy, concepts, methodology. In: DAMON, W.; LERNER, R. M. (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology. (6 th ed,) Vol. 1. Theoretical
models of human development. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley, 2006, p. 18-88.
PETTLE, S. Thinking about the future when death is inevitable: consultations in terminal care.
Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry. v. 3, n. 1, p. 131-139, 1998.
PIAGET, J. Introduction. Les problèmes et les méthodes. In La représentation du monde chez
l'enfant. Paris: F. Alcan, 1926, p. 5-30.
PIAGET, J. Introduction à l'épistémologie génétique. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France,
PIAGET, J. Biologie et connaissance: essai sur les relations entre les régulations organiques et les
processus cognitifs. Paris: Gallimard, 1967.
PSALTIS, C.; DUVEEN, G.; PERRET-CLERMONT, A-N. The Social and the Psychological:
Structure and Context in Intellectual Development. Human Development. v. 52, n. 5, p. 291-312,
RODRIGUES de LIMA, V.; KOVÁCS, M. J. Morte na família: um estudo exploratório acerca da
comunicaçao a criança. Psicologia: ciência e profissão. v. 31, n. 2, p. 390-405, 2011.
SCHERER, M. W.; NAKAMURA, C. Y. A fear survey schedule for children (FSS-FC): A factor
analytic comparison with manifest anxiety [FSSC, Fear Survey Schedule for Children]. Behaviour Research and Therapy. v. 6, p. 173-182, 1968.
SCHILDER, P.; WECHSLER, D. The attitude of children towards death. Journal of Genetic Psychology. v. 45, p. 406-451, 1934.
SMILANSKY, S. On death: helping children understand and cope [QEHAD, Questionnaire for
Examination of Human and Animal Death]. New York: Peter Lang, 1987.
TAMM, M. E.; GRANQVIST, A. The meaning of death for children and adolescents: a phenomenograpic study of drawings. Death Studies.v. 19, p. 203-222, 1995.
Volume 7 Número 1 – Jan-Jul/2015 65
ISSN: 1984-1655
TAU, R.; LENZI, A. M. La muerte: un objeto de conocimiento social. In: Memorias del II congreso internacional de investigación de la Facultad de Psicología de la Universidad Nacional de La
Plata, 2009. [ISBN 978-950-34-0588-8].
THOMAS, L. V. Anthropologie de la mort. Paris: Payot, 1975.
VALSINER, J. The development of the concept of development: Historical and epistemological
perspectives. In: DAMON, W.; LERNER, R. (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology. (5 th ed.).
Vol. 1. Theoretical models of human development. New York: Wiley, 1998. p. 189-232.
VLSINER, J. Development epistemology and implications for methodology. In. LERNER, R. M.
(Ed.), Theoretical models of human development, Vol 1, Handbook of Child Psychology, (6th
Edition). New York: Wiley, 2006.
VINH-BANG. La méthode clinique et la recherche en psychologie de l'enfant. In : AJURRIAGUERRA, J.; BRESSON, F.; FRAISSE, P.; GOLDMANN, L.; INHELDER, B. Psychologie et
épistemologie génétiques. Paris: Dunod, 1996. p. 67-81.
WILLIS, C. A. The grieving process in children: strategies for understanding, educating, and
reconciling children’s perceptions of death. Early childhood education journal. v. 29, n. 4, p.
221-226, 2001.
YANG, S. C.; CHEN, S-F. A phenomenographic approach to the meaning of death: a Chinese
perspective, Death Studies. v. 26, p. 143–175, 2002.
YANG, S. C.; CHEN, S-F. Content analysis of free-responds narratives to personal meanings of
death among Chinese children and adolescents. Death Studies. v. 30, p. 217–241, 2006.