Attitudes of Nursing Personnel Toward Death and Dying: I. Linguistic Indicators of Avoidance

Authors

  • Darlene W. Mood,

    Corresponding author
    1. Dr. Darlene W. Mood is associate professor at the College of Nursing, Wayne State University, Detroit. Ms. Barbara A. Lakin is an oncology nurse completing a master's program in adult psychiatric-mental health nursing at the same institution.
    • Requests for reprints may be addressed to Dr. Darlene W. Mood, College of Nursing, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan 48202
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  • Barbara A. Lakin

    1. Dr. Darlene W. Mood is associate professor at the College of Nursing, Wayne State University, Detroit. Ms. Barbara A. Lakin is an oncology nurse completing a master's program in adult psychiatric-mental health nursing at the same institution.
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Two sequential studies were conducted to examine the suitability of quantitative linguistic analysis for the study of attitudes. Attitudes of nursing personnel toward death and the care of dying patients were examined unobtrusively by observing changes in selected linguistic behaviors. Avoidance was defined as the substitution of a pronoun for a negatively affected noun. Both studies supported the hypotheses that the use of the pronoun it would be greater in death-related than in non-death-related responses (ps<.01). The initial study demonstrated that general pronoun usage was also increased in selected death-related response categories (p<.01), but this finding may have been related to more standard pronoun usage in English rather than to use as a substitute for purposes of avoidance. The inference of increased use of it as a substitute for negatively affected nouns was substantiated by a review of it-referents for a segment of the data. The scientific and clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

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