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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Eternal youths: A narrative inquiry into the buffering effects of a generational cultural complex against the anxiety of aging and death in the American Baby Boom generation
by Huffman, Anne Maija, Ph.D., Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, 2012, 162; 3541712
Abstract (Summary)

This research explored 39American Baby Boomers' attitudes towards aging, death and dying, and whether or not a belief in a generational cultural worldview of youthfulness buffered the individual against anxiety of eventual death. Thematic analysis informed by narrative inquiry explored responses from these participants. The online service SurveyMonkey was used to gather data via a narrative answer questionnaire.

Death anxiety, from a Western cultural perspective, is a complex phenomenon that represents the blend of many different thought processes and emotions. Terror management theory posited that humans share with all forms of life a biological predisposition to continue their existence, or at least to avoid premature termination of life, while at the same time having knowledge of their inevitable mortality. As a result, humans have the potential to consciously experience a terror of death. Therefore, self-esteem and cultural systems serve as shields against the human awareness of vulnerability and eventual mortality.

Cultural complex is a theoretical term that extends Jung's original conception of a complex into group phenomena. Whole groups can often behave as if they are in the grip of a specific cultural complex. This type of cultural complex activates in the groups' behavior, emotion, and life as a self-preservation system. With regard to this study, the cultural complex under study was an observed preservation of ongoing youthfulness of a generation collectively known as the Baby Boomers in the United States. This research asked the following question: Have the Baby Boomers invested in a cultural complex of youthfulness to help buffer anxiety about aging and death? The findings of this study may contribute to the integration of psychological, thanatological, transpersonal, and sociological theories in evolving theoretical models for working with a population that, through sheer volume of numbers, is changing how Americans cope with aging and mortality. Keywords: Baby Boomers, cultural complex, terror management theory, death anxiety, self-esteem Method: Qualitative, thematic analysis informed by narrative inquiry, narrative online questionnaire

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Brooks, Christine, Pilato, Ron
Commitee: Marlo, Helen
School: Institute of Transpersonal Psychology
Department: Residential Transpersonal Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 74/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Aging, Clinical psychology
Keywords: Baby boomers, Cultural complex, Death anxiety, Self-esteem, Terror management theory
Publication Number: 3541712
ISBN: 978-1-267-68437-0
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