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Page 1

A COMPARISON BETWEEN PERSONALITY FACTORS�

AND REPORTED FEAR OF DEATH�

A Thesis�

Presented to�

the Department of Psychology�

Emporia State University�

In Partial Fulfillment�

of the Requirements for the Degree�

Master of Science�

by�

David E. Neufeldt�

May 1979�

Page 2

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AN ABSTRACT OF THE THESIS OF

David E. Neufeldt for the Master of Science

in Clinical Psychology presented May 1979

Title: A COMPARISON BETWEEN PERSONALITY FACTORS AND REPORTED

FEAR OF DEATH

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Abstract approved: '(:&,J'/ /.2 ~t ,. k 1'1 i..JC~;-
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Previous research projects have studied the relationship

between the fear of death and numerous demographic variables, but few

of the studies cited have dealt with personality factors. The purpose

of this study was to investigate the relationship that exists between

personality traits and reported levels of death fear. An attempt was

made to determine if certain typical personality traits are associated

with the conscious expression of death fear.

The personality traits and reported levels of death fear of

two hundred thirty-three volunteer college students were measured by

the Sixteen Personality Factor questionnaire and the Death Anxiety

Scale, respectively. Of this total, seventy-five subjects representing

the high, moderate, and low fear of death categories were selected for

the final analysis of data.

The results of a one-way between-subjects analysis of variance

demonstrated that five of the sixteen personality variables measured

were related to the fear of death at a statistically significant

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Hospital, pending their trial for murder in the first or second

degree. Five other cases of severe assault were also studied by the

author. Concerning the case studies of the individuals, Schilder

stated:

Obviously, our cases were studied at a disadvantage, since
the subjects had reasons for withholding material. One must also
not forget that our cases are not representative of murder in
general, the majority having been referred to us by psychiatric
observation, and only a small percentage for physical illness.

He found that there are three groups of murderers: (1) those including

the young slayer, the hold-up man, and the killer after an insignificant

quarrel. Schilder found that the individual in this group had very

little conscious relation to death; he did not think about his own

death; death fears did not play an important part; (2) those in which

the motives of the deed seemed understandable; and, (3) psychopathic

and psychotic. In this group death ideas came prominently into the

foreground. The fears and nightmares of being shot, of being run

over, falling from a cliff, began to playa role. Schilder stated

that when moving from group one to group two and on to group three,

the views of death became less mechanical.

Not all authors agree with the idea that mental illness does

not produce an attitude towards death that cannot be found in the

normal population. Stacey and Reichen (1954) attempted to further the

knowledge of individuals' thoughts, attitudes, and reactions toward

death and their beliefs concerning an existence after death. The

authors used a questionnaire consisting of thirty-six questions which

were selected from Schilder and Wechsler's questionnaire. The question-

naire was administered to seventy-five normal adolescent high school

girls and to seventy-five institutional abnormal adolescent girls.

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The abnormal groups' intelligence ranged from average to superior, as

measured by the Revised Stanford-Binet, Form L. Their results showed

that the abnormal adolescent girls appeared to be significantly more

emotional and fearful in their attitudes toward death, are more

horrified by death, and they worry about a life after death.

Life expectancy and the amount of meaning that one gives his

life may be two personal characteristics that have an influence on the

fear of death. Handal (1969) primarily investigated some psychological

correlates of death anxiety, thereby contributing to the determination

of the construct validity of the death anxiety scale used. His study

concentrated on the relationship between death anxiety and the sub-

jects' expressed expectations of their own life spans. The subjects

used in this study included sixty-six male and fifty female graduate

students at a northeastern university. The average age of the males

was 33.4 years; for females, 29.0. A questionnaire was given which

requested information on projected life span, estimated life expec-

tancy of one's own sex and of the opposite sex, death of family

members, close friends, frequency of discussion of death, and fre-

quency of church attendance. The subjects were then given the Zukerman

Affective Adjective Check List of Anxiety and a modified version of

Livingston and Zimet's Death Anxiety Scale. The results indicated a

significant negative relationship between subjective life expectancy

and death anxiety for females only. The lack of any significant

relationship for men may suggest that men are more defensive about

death than women.

The relationship between meaning and purpose in life and fear

of death was the main theme of Durlak's study (1972). A total of 120

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APPENDIX A

Student I.D. Number AGE SEX. _

DEATH ANXIETY SCALE

Place a T in the appropriate space if the statement is true as applied
to you. Place an F in the space if the statement is false.

1. I am very much afraid to die.

2. The thought of death seldom enters my mind.

3. It doesn't make me nervous when people talk about death.

4. I dread to think about having to have an operation.

5. I am not at all afraid to die.

6. I am not particularly afraid of getting cancer.

7. The thought of death never bothers me.

8. I am often distressed by the way time flies so very rapidly.

9. I fear dying a painful death.

10. The subject of life after death troubles me greatly.

11. I am really scared of having a heart attack.

12. I often think about how short life really is.

13. I shudder when I hear people talking about a World War III.

14. The sight of a dead body is horrifying to me.

15. I feel that the future holds nothing for me to fear.

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