Attitudes of nursing personnel toward death and dying: II. linguistic indicators of denial



This study was conducted to examine the attitudes of nursing personal toward death and dying by means of quantitative linguistic analysis. Previous research findings on the attitudinal concept of avoidance support the suitability of the approach. This study sought to examine the proposition that denial, another attitudinal concept appearing frequently in the literature on death and dying, would be manifested in language by increased use of negative lexical forms. It was hypothesized that the use of negatives would increase significantly in death-related responses as compared with non-death-related responses. The sample consisted of 40 nursing personnel interviewed on their expectations and care of terminally ill patients. Dependent variable measures include the ratio of negative lexical forms to total number of words for all death-related and all non-death-related responses. Similar proportions were obtained for selected response categories. Significantly more negatives were used in death-related responses, thus supporting the hypothesis. The value of these methods is discussed, as are the clinical implications for nursing.