Background to the Study
Death is a natural phenomenon that is unavoidable, unstoppable, inescapable and inevitable in human life. Every living creature that has a beginning must at last come to an end. There is no individual, family or community that can claim ignorant of the existence of death. Almost everybody does have some fears or feelings about his or her own death. In Nigeria, as in some other cultures, people are known to be afraid of death. This fear influences ones attitude towards this concept. Unfortunately, death is unpredictable; it may come upon a person suddenly and unexpectedly or may be long-awaited (Durosaro, 1996). Death as noted by Knight, Elfenbein and Capozzi (2000) is considered as a topic most difficult to discuss, conceive or dealt with in any sense. Hence, everyone is afraid of death and fears to talk about it. However, there are a lot of views about death among individuals and societies. Among the Yorubas, there is the strong belief that death of a young person is caused by witches and wizards, the Igbos believed that death of a young person must have been, due to “Ogbanje” the born to die or “Owumiri” that is associated with the water spirit and the Hausas believed that some evil forces must have been at work when a young person dies (Durosaro, 1996). These views on death affect ones belief, thought and emotion.
Kim and Lee (2003) noted that death is inevitable in human being and hence has been studied in many disciplines. Research has shown that many people have difficulty dealing with issue of death (Mallory, 2003). Dealing with issue of death requires the maintenance of emotional balance together with scientific skills and accurate perception (De Araujo, Da Silva, & Francisco, 2004). Also, it requires knowing personal attitude towards death since attitude influences one’s behaviour. Ungureanu & Sandberg (2008) asserted that dealing with the issues of death generally can be a risk factor for healthcare personnel. According to Gauthier (2008), death occurrence often stirs up strong emotion in individuals such as sorrow (Ungureanu & Sandberg, 2008), helplessness and anxiety (Weigel, Parker, Fanning, Reyna & Gasbarra, 2007), feelings of frustration and loss (Brajtman, Fothergill-Bourbonnais, Cassey, Alain & Fiset, 2007), depression and anger (Weigel, Parker, Fanning, Reyna & Gasbarra, 2007) and guilt (LeSergenta & Haneyb, 2005). No one can ever escaped death (Mallory, 2003).
Death is an unpredictable and unexpected event that cuts off life. It is the cessation of the connection between mind and body. Bernat, Culver & Gert, (1981) explored the organismic definition of death as the irreversible loss of functioning of the organism as a whole. To them, death is seen as a biological occurrence common to all organisms. In this definition, the role of human brain is crucial in interpreting major bodily functions. Baker (2000) defined death as the irreversible cessation of the capacity for consciousness. Consciousness in this definition is meant broadly to include subjective experiences so that both wakeful and dreaming states count as instance. One dies on this view upon entering a state in which the brain is incapable of returning to consciousness.
Kalish (1985) defined death as a biological event that occurs naturally to all living things. Capron and Kass (1972) in Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA) which was jointly developed by the National Conference on Commissioners of Uniform State Law (NCCUSL), the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Bar Association (ABA) defined death in two parts. Part one defined death as the total failure of the cardio-respiratory system while part two defined death as the irreversible loss of all brain functions. In order to determine when death has occurred, Wijdick (2002) noted some strong indications to prove that a person is dead. These indications include: pallor mortis – which is the paleness that happens instantaneously between 15 to 120 minutes after death; algor mortis – which is the reduction in body temperature after death; Rigor Mortis – in which the limbs of the corpse become stiff and difficult to move; livor mortis – which is the settling of the blood or fluid in the lower portion of the body; and decomposition – which is the reduction of the body into smaller forms of matter. In the context of this study, death is defined as the irreversible loss of human life.
Williams (1965) revealed that everyone is afraid of death and our view toward death influences our attitudes. Attitude according to Haddock, Zanna, and Esses (1994) is the overall evaluation based on multiple sources of information such as cognitive, affective and behavioural responses. Lambert and Lambert (1994) defined attitude as an organized and consistent manner of thinking, feeling and reaction of people, groups towards the attitude object in one’s environment. The present study adapted Lambert and Lambert (1994) definition of attitude which is an organized and consistent manner of thinking, feeling and reaction of people, groups towards the attitude object in one’s environment. Therefore, an attitude towards death in this study refers to an organized and consistent manner of thinking, feeling and reaction of secondary school physical and health education teachers towards death in human environment.
Secondary school physical and health education teachers in the context of this study are those who are teaching physical and health education subject in secondary schools, who has higher qualification from either colleges of education or university in the area of physical and health education where death concept is being taught as a sub-topic in the broad areas of ageing and death education. The study focused on the attitude of secondary school physical and health education teachers in Nsukka Education Zone towards death.
There are some variables that may influence attitude towards death. Such variables include: fear, age and gender. Hoelter(1979) explored the dimensions of death fears and their effect on individual’s attitude towards death. These dimensions include; the fear of dying, fear of the dead, fear of being destroyed, fear of significant others, fear of the unknown, fear of conscious death, fear of the body after death and fear of premature death. The study focused on the age and gender differences as well as the dimensions of death fear on the attitude of secondary school physical and health education teachers in Nsukka education zone towards death. These variables were chosen for the present study because the subjects had received some special training on the key concept of the study which would enable them to hold a definite attitude towards death.
Age has a significant influence on the attitude towards death (Barrere, Durkin, & La Coursier (2008). Abdel-Khalek and Al-Kandari, (2007) found that the younger adults tend to report higher level of death anxiety than do the middle-age adults. Kurz and Hayes (2006) found that the older adults feel more comfortable talking about death issues than the younger adults. Barrere, Durkin, and LaCoursier (2008) also found that younger age was more conducive to attitude change after an education intervention than the older ones. Gender also has a significant influence on attitude towards death. Abdel-Khalek and Al-Kandari (2006) revealed that gender related differences in death anxiety and attitude are real and it is most probable that these differences are the product of differential socialization of men and women as supported by their studies. Women are more open to death related thoughts and feelings while men are somewhat more concerned about keeping these thoughts and feelings in check.
The study was anchored on two theories: the theory of cognitive dissonance and theory of reasoned action. The theory of cognitive dissonance by Lean Festinger (1957) posited that attitude predicts behaviour and that where attitude and behaviour are not related, cognitive dissonance results. Cognitive dissonance refers to an individual’s motivation to reduce the discomfort (dissonance) caused by two inconsistent thoughts. To this effect, most people have a tendency to make their thoughts consistent. The theory of reasoned action by Keke Ajzen and Martin Fishbein (1967) is based on the assumption that most behaviours of social relevance are under volitional (willful) control. Therefore, a person’s intention to perform or not to perform a particular behaviour is the immediate determinant of that behaviour.
Studies (Hoelter, 1979; Knight, Elfenbein & Capozzi, 2000; Mallory, 2003; Dunn, Otten, & Stephens, 2005; Abdel–Khalek & Al-kandan, 2007; Barrere, Durkin & La Coursier, 2008; and Iranmanesh, Savenstedt & Abbaszadeh, 2008) had been conducted and shown that attitude towards death is influenced by some identifiable variables such as age, gender and fear. No study to the best of the investigator’s knowledge has been conducted on the attitude of secondary school physical and health education teachers in Nsukka Education Zone towards death. It was therefore, justifiable to investigate their attitude towards death in this area.
Following from this, one is then prompted to ask, what is the attitude of secondary school physical and health education teachers in Nsukka Education Zone towards death? The question above represented the need for the study.
Statement of the Problem
Death is a natural phenomenon that is unavoidable, unstoppable, inescapable and inevitable in human life. It is an unpredictable and unexpected event that cuts off life. When death occurs, it stirs up strong emotions such as anger, sorrow, anxiety, fear, depression and feelings of frustration, which affect one’s attitude either positively or negatively. Secondary school physical and health education teachers were to hold specific attitude towards death due to training and experiences they have had on death concepts.
Despite all their training and experiences on death concept, they still hold diverse attitude towards death and dimensions of death fears. This no doubt must have affected the teaching of physical education topics especially topics that involves skill acquisition that require high levels of confidence in students and also in teaching death related concepts in schools and colleges. Could it be due to age or gender differences? Or could it be associated with the dimensions of death fear?
All these questions lead to the problem of this study. Hence, the investigator found it expedient to conduct such study with a view to determine the attitude of secondary school physical and health education teachers in Nsukka Education Zone towards death.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study was to determine the attitude of secondary school physical and health education teachers in Nsukka Education Zone towards death. Specifically, the study sought to determine the: