Children's Encounters with Death, Bereavement, and Coping

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Vulnerable populations include those that have particular exposure to possible threat of wrongdoing resulting from having characteristics that present potential for members of the population to be unable to defend themselves in certain settings due to imbalance of power. The definition of vulnerability holds special significance for dying and bereaved children, in that not only is their cognitive development immature because of their young age, but also they are forced to confront death and mortality, an issue with which even adults may be vulnerable. Literature has suggested that infants and young children through adolescence whose parents die are more likely than older individuals to experience the loss as traumatic (Freudenberger & Gallagher, 1995). Additionally, many children are facing the death of a parent to a terminal illness such as HIV/AIDS, the stigma of which can compound the degree of vulnerability children experience. The increase in recent decades of research being conducted with pediatric AIDS victims themselves (Ackerman, 1990) further exacerbates the risk of exploitation of this group. As a result, the issue of conducting ethical research with dying and bereaved children demands our attention.


Contribution to a Book: Children's Encounters with Death, Bereavement, and Coping