British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 20 Issue 4 (November 2002), Pages 465-622

Four and 6‐year olds' biological concept of death: The case of plants (pages 495-513)

Three studies examined 4‐ and 6‐year‐olds' concept of death, particularly the components of universality, inevitability, finality, and causality, by focusing on plants. Experiment 1 was an interview in which participants answered questions about the death components for three plant types (a tree, a weed, and a flower). In Expt. 2, children pointed at drawings of plants and artifacts for which they believed the death components apply. Experiment 3 directly compared children's death concept of plants with that of animals. The results of Expts 1–3 showed that 6‐year‐olds and to some degree 4‐year‐olds understand the components of death and that these components apply to plants and animals, but not artifacts. However, there were significant differences in their understanding of death across the three different plant types as well as between plants and animals. These results suggest that children have a concept of death that includes plant and animal death, but that important changes take place between the ages of 4 and 6 years.

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