Ribbens McCarthy, Jane
'They all look as if they're coping, but I'm not': the relational power/lessness of 'youth' in responding to experiences of bereavement.
Journal of Youth Studies, 10(3) pp. 285–304.
This is the latest version of this eprint.
Experience of significant bereavement is reported by the majority of young people in contemporary western societies, but it receives little attention from mainstream services or academics, and this marginality is paralleled in young people’s everyday bereavement experiences. Existing academic and professional work concerned with children and young people’s experiences of bereavement largely centres on cognitive understandings of death, and individual intra-psychic processes and responses in the context of relevant ‘developmental tasks’. And yet some writers suggest that the key feature of young people’s experiences of bereavement is their relative powerlessness, rather than any particularities of cognition or affective responses. At the same time, the meanings that young people themselves attribute to their experiences may be crucial to any explanations of ‘risk’ for negative ‘outcomes’ that may be associated with bereavement. Furthermore, as exemplified by new case studies discussed in the paper, it is clear that young people are active agents in their family and peer group contexts. This article offers a discussion of bereavement in the context of ‘youth’ as a relational and institutionalised social status, and explores some theoretical issues potentially raised by the themes of death and bereavement in the context of youth studies generally.
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