The Impacts of Childhood Parental Death Among College Aged Students

Head shot of Jillian Ness

Name: Jillian Ness
Majors: Sociology, Education
Advisors: Heather Fitz-Gibbon

This study analyzes college student’s experiences with childhood parental death. I explored this research through Rismam’s gender as structure, Goffman’s symbolic interactionism, and used systems and role theories as well. Throughout this research, I looked at how parental death impacted sibling relationships and the perception of gender and subjective age. To complete this study, I conducted six interviews, each thirty minutes long, with students who had lost a parent. The youngest person to experience it was four when he lost his mother, and the oldest person was twenty-one when she lost her father. Five out of six participants lost a parent due to cancer, and the remaining participant lost her father to a drug overdose. Each interviewee had a different story featuring various concerns and ways that the death impacted them. This research is important to society because it explores the impacts of childhood parental death on significant issues like gender, family structure and age. One major conclusion from my study found that the eldest female in a family is often the most impacted by the death of a parent, male or female. This is primarily due to societal gender standards. It is incredibly vital to analyze this because there is a lack of understanding and empathy surrounding parental death, and it could start the conversation of how to aid children who have experienced such a tragic, life-changing event. Discussing this could also encourage children to use healthy coping skillsets they have learned from friends, family or in their classroom.

Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2022 on April 26, 2022.

16 responses to “The Impacts of Childhood Parental Death Among College Aged Students”

  1. Tim Ness Class of '89 says:

    A completely amazing IS from a remarkable young woman. This IS is comprehensive and fueled by the compassion and selflessness of the author. Jilly, what did you learn by completing this process?

  2. Kennedy Tanner says:

    I’m so proud of all your hard work. Keep it up!

  3. Heather Fitz Gibbon says:

    Great job, Jilly! You should be very proud of your work!

  4. Austrella Balley ‘21 says:

    Good job! This is amazing research!

  5. Austrella Balley ‘21 says:

    Superb job! This is amazing research!

  6. Sena Adin says:

    Good Job Jilly!! The findings are so interesting and I learned a lot !

  7. jillian ness says:

    Thank you for all of your continued support and help during both the IS process and afterwards as well. I couldn’t have done any of this without you!

  8. jillian ness says:

    Thank you so much Strell!

  9. jillian ness says:

    I appreciate the support, kennedy 🙂

  10. jillian ness says:

    Thanks Sena!!

  11. jillian ness says:

    Tim (dad), thank you for all that you have done for me. I learned a lot about the community surrounding me, how many peers have experienced something that I have, and how much I can do when I put my mind to it!

  12. Danielle Nasoff says:

    Congrats Jilly!! This is so impressive and such an important topic! So so proud of you!

  13. Diane DeBell says:

    This is fantastic – congratulations. I hope you continue your research and educate others – your research is so important. I cannot wait to watch you continue your journey

  14. Jenna Stanton says:

    So awesome Jilly!! Congrats on an amazing I.S.!

  15. Rachel Greer says:

    Congrats Jilly! What a great I.S.!!

  16. Jodi Stanton says:

    Well done Jilly!! Congrats on an amazing IS!

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