Off-campus Pacific University users: To download campus access theses and dissertations, please log into our proxy server with your PUNet ID and password.

Non-Pacific University users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this thesis or dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Theses or dissertations that have a specific embargo period indicated below will not be available to anyone until the date indicated.

Date of Award


Degree Type

Thesis (On-Campus Access Only)

Degree Name

Master of Science in Clinical Psychology (MSCP)

Committee Chair

Daniel S. McKitrick, Ph.D.


This thesis reviews literature published from 1983 - 2000 on death conceptualization in terminally ill children. The literature addresses differences among physically healthy, chronically ill, and fatally ill children's understanding of death. Two research perspectives are reviewed: a) normative cognitive development determines death conceptualization b) death related experiences provide a unique course of acquisition. Differences appear when results are analyzed by specific death subconcepts - universality, irreversibility, and personal mortality - and by age group (3 - 6 years old). Additionally, terminally ill children express feelings of isolation, death anxiety, and healthy denial that potentially confound research design. This thesis suggests that research from both perspectives and consideration of confounding factors have practical application to the psychological care of terminally ill children.