Perceptions of death amongst Swedish teenagers

by Anna Row

Institution: Uppsala University
Year: 2015
Keywords: death; death socialization; socialization theory; unpacked religion; funerals; Humanities; Philosophy, Ethics and Religion; Religious Studies; Humaniora; Filosofi, etik och religion; Religionsvetenskap; Masterprogram i religionsvetenskap; Master Programme in Theology and Religious Studies; Sociology of Religion; Religionssociologi
Record ID: 1348576
Full text PDF: http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-242592


The absense or presence of death in the public discourse has been on the death studies agenda for a long time. Although the tone of this debate was once set by writers who bemoaned the hidden nature of contemporary death and the un-healthy, dishonest modern death ways, recent research has focused on death’s re-emergence into public discourse, not least via mass and social media. This study aims to contribute to the debate by mapping teenagers’ perceptions of death and the process by which they arrive at them. Furthermore, this study looks into religion’s role in this process. This is a relevant aspect considering that the Church of Sweden is still responsible for funeral organization, despite the 2000 church/state split. This mixed methods study combines data from a survey of three upper sec-ondary schools in three different Swedish cities with data from semi-structured interviews with students from each of the three schools. Socialization theory (more specifically death socialization) and unpacked religion are used to analyse what shapes the teenagers’ perceptions of death. The author concludes that alt-hough the teenagers are well aware of the presence of death in media, this pres-ence does not shape the way they think about death. Death socialization instead takes place in the primary group and only in connection to primary group deaths. The religious funeral remains important to the teenagers, but it is disconnected from their personal beliefs and primarily important as a tradition.