Date of Award

2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

School

School of Psychology and Social Sciences

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Diedre Drake

Second Advisor

Dr Elizabeth Kaczmarek

Abstract

Due to the positive contributions many companion animals make to the lives of others, it is common for individuals to build strong emotional attachments to their pets. Individuals who have strong relationships with their pets are likely to experience an equally strong grief reaction following their death. Although the grief process is highly idiosyncratic, theory suggests common stages or tasks that adults progress through during grief. However, research indicates that the grief process for children may vary from that of adults. The developmental capability of a child at the time of a loss will determine their level of understanding about death and consequently influence their reactions and use of coping strategies in response to the death of a loved one. Although research has explored the grief process in children, the majority of studies focus on human death, therefore future research should aim to explore the experiences of children following the death of a pet. Research suggests pets may play a significant role in the lives of children. Children who build strong relationships with their pets are likely to experience a strong grief reaction following their death. The current research study aimed to explore the experiences of children under the age of twelve who have previously experienced the loss of a pet, from parents' perspectives. Data were collected through one-on-one semi-structured interviews conducted with ten participants. The results of thematic data analysis identified three major themes: children's' experience of pet death, coping with loss, and parents' experience of pet death, with accompanying sub-themes. It was found that the results of the current study concur with previous literature. The findings of the current study indicate the complexity of the pet grieving process for children and emphasise the need for continuing research in this area.

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