The relationship between death awareness training, values and value systems

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Struble, Ronald Lee, 1948-
Shapiro, Joseph B.
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Thesis (D. Ed.)
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The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship and effect of a Death Awareness Training program on personal values and value systems. The experimental group experienced Death Awareness Training and the control group participated in an exercise assumed to be unrelated to the experimental group experiences. The Rokeach Value Survey (RVS) for terminal and instrumental values was used to obtain measures of value system change.Prior to the group experiences, the sample of 28 subjects was randomly divided into two groups of fourteen subjects each. The subjects were master's level counseling students. The experimental group (six males and eight females) participated in two hours and five minutes of Death Awareness Training. The control group (seven males and seven females) spent an equivalent amount of time viewing and discussing a videotape on family therapy.The Rokeach Value Survey for terminal and instrumental values was administered to both groups before and after the group experience. The subjects responded to the RVS by rank-ordering both lists of values from one to eighteen, most to least important. The RVS was scored to obtain value change scores for each subject, for both lists of values. Direction of change was not a factor. The value change scores were then subjected to two way analysis of variance. The selected level of significance was .05.The first major null hypothesis--there is no statistically significant difference in value change scores between the experimental group and the control group--was statistically rejected (F = 6.29; df = 1,52; p <.05). Therefore, it was asserted that Death Awareness Training had a statistically significant effect in the reprioritization of personal value systems.The second major null hypothesis--there is no statistically significant difference in value change scores between terminal values and instrumental values--was also statistically rejected (F = 8.29; df = 1,52; p <.05). This indicated that Death Awareness Training caused a statistically significantly greater reprioritization of instrumental values than terminal values.The third major null hypothesis--there is no statistically significant difference in value change scores in the interaction among groups and values--was not statistically rejected (F = 1.56; df = 1,52; P >.05), and therefore not investigated. Since this hypothesis was not rejected, four sub-hypotheses were not investigated and therefore not rejected.The following conclusions were drawn from the study:1. Relatively short periods of Death Awareness Training achieved significant changes in personal value systems.2. Changes in personal value systems resulting from Death Awareness Training may also result in changes in observable behavior.3. Conceptions and meanings of death prior to Death Awareness Training were bases on inaccurate information.4. Personal value systems existing before Death Awareness Training were based on misconceptions, misperceptions, fear, guilt and distorted individual and collective thoughts about death.5. Death Awareness Training created inconsistencies and imbalances in existing value systems causing changes in the value systems designed to remove or reduce the inconsistencies and imbalances.6. Death Awareness Training altered desired modes of conduct more than desired end-states of existence. The perceived end product of life remained basically the same but the quality, in terms of the process of life, was significantly changed as a result of Death Awareness Training.The results of the study indicate that Death Awareness Training can be a useful procedure for counselors, therapists and mental health practitioners of all kinds to assist clients manifesting death and death-related concerns, to explore personal meanings and perceptions of the clients' conceptions of death, to alleviate personal fears concerning their death and the death of significant others, and alter dysfunctional behavior patterns emulating from or in a death context.Since Death Awareness Training resulted in changes in personal value systems, counselor educators may want to consider providing similar training programs to counselors in training. This is necessary so that the value system a counselor will use in the counseling relationship to effect a multitude of decisions and outcomes with a client will not be a value system based on misconceptions, misperceptions, and fear. This is particularly true with, though not limited to, clients manifesting death and death-related concerns.