DEFENSIVE PESSIMISM AND PSYCHOLOGICAL WELLBEING AS PREDICTORS OF DEATH ANXIETY AMONG THE VARIOUS CHRISTIAN TRADITIONS (ORTHODOX, PENTECOSTAL AND CATHOLIC)

DEFENSIVE PESSIMISM AND PSYCHOLOGICAL WELLBEING AS PREDICTORS OF DEATH ANXIETY AMONG THE VARIOUS CHRISTIAN TRADITIONS (ORTHODOX, PENTECOSTAL AND CATHOLIC)

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Title                                                                                                                            Page

Title Page        -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           i

Certification Page       -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           ii

Dedication       -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           iii

Acknowledgement      -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           iv

Table of Contents       -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           v

List of Tables  -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           vi

Abstracts         -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           vii

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of the study  -           -           -           -           -           -           -           1

1.2 Statement of problem        -           -           -           -           -           -           -           9

1.3 Purpose of study   -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           9

1.4Significance of study        -           -           -           -           -           -           -           10

CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW

2.1 Theoretical Review           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           11

2.1.1 Theory on Death Anxiety          -           -           -           -           -           -           11

2.1.1.1 Terror Management Theory    -           -           -           -           -           -           11

2.1.2 Theory on Psychological wellbeing       -           -           -           -           -           13

2.1.2.1 The Six-factor Model of Psychological Well-being   -           -           -           13

2.1.3 Theory on defensive pessimism -           -           -           -           -           -           15

2.1.3.1 Cognitive theory         -           -           -           -           -           -           -           15

2.2 Empirical Review -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           18

2.2.1 Death Anxiety    -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           18

2.2.2 Psychological Wellbeing           -           -           -           -           -           -           19

2.2.3 Defensive Pessimism     -           -           -           -           -           -           -           20

2.3 Operational Definition of Terms -           -           -           -           -           -           21

2.4Statement of Hypotheses  -           -           -           -           -           -           -           22

CHAPTER THREE: METHODS

3.1 Design-      -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           23

3.2 Settings     -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           23

3.3 Participants           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           24

3.4 Instruments           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           24

3.5 Procedures             -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           25

3.5.1 Stage 1   -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           25

3.5.2 Stage 2   -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           26

3.6Statistical Analysis            -           -           -           -           -           -           -           26

CHAPTER FOUR: RESULTS

4.1 Results      -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           27

 

CHAPTER FIVE: DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

5.1 Discussion             -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           33

5.2 Conclusion            -           -           -           -           -           -           -           -           35

5.3 Limitations of the study   -           -           -           -           -           -           -           36

5.4 Suggestion for further study         -           -           -           -           -           -           37

5.5Implication/Recommendation of the study          -           -           -           -           37

References

Appendices


LIST OF TABLES

Table 1:           Table of Mean showing demographic variables on Death Anxiety   - 27

Table 2:           Inter-correlation of demographic and study variables            -           - 29

Table 3:           Summary table of multiple regression showing predictive roles of

defensive pessimism and psychological wellbeing in death anxiety - 30

Table 4:Summary of   multiple sample t-test showing the difference in the

level of death anxiety among Orthodox, Pentecostal and Catholic

Christian traditions     -           -           -           -           -           -            31


ABSTRACT

This study examined defensive pessimism and psychological wellbeing as predictors of death anxiety among the different Christian traditions (Orthodox, Pentecostal and Catholic). This study adopted expo-factor design. Three hundred and seventy-four participants who belonged to either Orthodox, Pentecostal and Catholic Christian traditions were used in this study. Purposive sampling technique was used in this study. Participant age range from 20years – 50years of age. The mean age of the participants was 38.41. Participants were made up of 160 males and 214 females. Participants with age less than 40 years of age totaled 163 while participants 40 years and above were 211. The defensive pessimism questionnaire developed by Norem (2001), the psychological wellbeing scale by Ryff, (1989) and death anxiety inventory by Tomas-Sabado & Gomez-Benito (2005) were instrument used for the collection of data. Descriptive statistics, Means and correlation, Multiple Regression and Multiple sample t-test were employed in the analysis. Results revealed there was a joint and independent prediction of defensive pessimism and psychological wellbeing on death anxiety (F= (2,274) = 100.14; P<.05), (defensive pessimism, (β = .236; t = 5.62; P<.05), (psychological wellbeing (β = -.557; t = -13.291; P<.05). Result from the table of multiple same t-test revealed that Pentecostal Christian tradition show high death anxiety than their Christian counterparts in Catholic and Orthodox Christian traditions, this was seen in their mean scores (X ̅ = 30.08, 28.84 and 28.30 respectively). Implications of the study as well as recommendation were in line with the findings.



CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of the Study

Death anxiety is anxiety which is caused by thoughts of death. According to Farley (2004), death anxiety is defined as the feeling of dread, apprehension or solicitude (anxiety) when one thinks of the process of dying, or ceasing to be. The presence of death anxiety in an individual is not just accompanied by the feeling of fear for physical or emotional pain, but a deep fear of the assumptions of emptiness that follow death. Death anxiety also includes the consideration of loss (losing a loved one, losing consciousness etc.). 

Fear of death is sometimes referred to as "thanatophobia," deriving from the Ancient Greek words "Thanatos," the name of the god of death, and "phobos," meaning "fear." Humans tend to have balance in life because of the tendency to control situation and things around them to a certain degree, hence; death anxiety arises as the result of the inability to control what happens during or following death. It is a normal tendency of mankind to get scared about death even when they know that they are going to die sometime. The thanatophobic people tend to response to this fact in an excessive manner.             

 At some point in human life, there lies within a certain level of death related anxiety. This could sometimes be caused by a close death experience of either oneself or a loved one. The thought of death is not very intriguing, and many avoid such unhealthy thoughts and rather choose to concentrate on life at present (opportunities, desires, drives, goals, achievements etc.). Brown (2009) characterized death anxiety as a conscious fear of death, a fear of the body after death, a fear of lost time, a fear of suffering, a fear of the unknown and a fear of loneliness. Research has shown that death for some people is not just the loss of the physical body, but the loss of ego (self), spirit or soul. Death anxiety has many dimensions, including cognitive, psychological dimensions etc. Cognitive dimension of death anxiety can include an awareness of the nothingness of death and a variety of beliefs, images and musings of death, dying and what happens after death.

Research over the years has shown two construct of death anxiety which are apart but linked together. There still remains as to whether when one talks about death anxiety which is being referred to; fear of death or fear of the dying process. Various factors have been proposed to influence death anxiety, some of which include: psychological state, age, gender, religion etc. Studies show that females tend to have more death anxiety than males. Thorson and Powell (1984) conducted a study to investigate this connection, the Death Anxiety Scale showed higher mean scores for women than for men. Moreover, researchers believe that age and culture could be major influences in why women score higher on death anxiety scales than men. Abdel-Khalek and Lester (2009), stated that higher education and socioeconomic status are moderately associated with lower death anxiety; they also reported older people do not typically report higher death anxiety than younger people.

Though death is a general and similar phenomenon across the globe, different cultures and religions tend to view it differently; especially religion. The meaning of death in regards to religion is essential to the believers of the religion as this is to help them cope with the loss of a loved one and make some meaning of death. In this light, Sadia (2015), stated that death anxiety is not just about anxiety or fear of death but also a fear of not having lived a meaningful life. There have been reports that religiosity has a positive protective effect since one is going to meet the Supreme Being and finally be given their rewards for their life on Earth. Yet others have found it to increase the fear of death for the same reason that they will be judged in heaven for their deeds while they were on Earth, a problem cross-culturally (Clarke et. al. 2003). Death anxiety has been identified to have six different attributes to the concept: emotion related to fear of disappearance, cognitive acceptance of death, experiential that death anxiety is not part of one’s conscious experience, development stage with identity crises affecting the degree of death anxiety, sociocultural shaping such as western societies concealing the sick and elderly accompanied by denial of death and source motivation affecting psychological status of the individual (Lehto 2009). Duff and Hong (1995) revealed that persons with stronger belief to afterlife live was associated with lower death anxiety.

Defensive Pessimismis a cognitive strategy used by anxious people to help them manage their anxiety so they can work productively. This anxiety could be fear of death either of oneself or of one spouse. Individuals who use this strategy feel anxious and out of control as they muse about an upcoming event. It is quite unfortunate that defensive pessimism has not been used in death study. To use this strategy, individuals set low expectations as outcome of upcoming events, (this means that individuals set low bench mark as a final result for the event). It is important to note that these low expectations are attributed to unforeseen circumstances that may arise, with that the individual works towards overcoming them. The strategy of defensive pessimism prevents anxiety from interfering with what the individual wants to accomplish. It is a common occurrence that individuals who use this strategy perform well. This strategy involves a thorough think-through process. Two things are achieved during the thinking process: first, the individual is motivated to focus on action (or steps to meet the bench-mark) instead of their anxiety, it motivates defensive pessimists to focus on action instead of their anxious feelings. Secondly, because of the specification and detailing involved in the thinking process, it guides the individual to plan effectively.

Norem (2007) defined defensive pessimism as the strategy of setting low expectations and then thinking through in concrete and vivid details, all things that might go wrong as one prepares for an upcoming situation or task. This strategy explains how people manage their emotions in their day-to-day lives. Intentional use of defensive pessimism allows for advantageous use of both positive and negative self-talk, which in turn helps to ease anxious feelings and increases chances of realizing positive outcomes.

Defensive pessimism is utilized in a variety of domains such as public speaking, academics, etc. Unlike pessimism, defensive pessimism is not an internal and stable attribution style, but rather a cognitive strategy utilized within the context of certain goals. Pessimism involves rumination about possible negative outcomes of a situation without proactive behaviour to counteract these outcomes. Defensive pessimism, on the other hand, utilizes the foresight of negative situations in order to prepare against them. The negative possible outcomes of a situation often motivate defensive pessimists to work harder for success. Since defensive pessimists are anxious but not certain that negative situations will arise, they still feel that they can control their outcomes. Though defensive pessimists are less satisfied with their performances and rate themselves higher in "need for improvement," they do not actually perform worse than people with a more optimistic strategy. Research has shown that defensive pessimists performed worse when encouraged than the defensive pessimists whose strategy was not manipulated (Norem, 2001). Defensive pessimism is an adaptive strategy for those who struggle with anxiety: their performance decreases if they are unable to appropriately manage and counteract their anxiety. One of the domains in which satisfaction may be more important than individual performance is that of romantic relationships. After all, there are no objective measures of performance in this area. Instead, relationships are deemed successful if marked by high satisfaction of both members of the couple; on the other hand, they are deemed unsuccessful if marked by a lack of satisfaction. Relationships are also an area in which individuals are likely to employ and exhibit defensively pessimistic thoughts and behaviour. Defensive pessimism is a “coherent pattern of expectations, appraisals, planning, effort and retrospection” (Norem, 2000). Like all strategies, it is employed in order to meet and respond to the specific challenges of a particular task (Cantor & Harlow, 1994). It is therefore domain-specific, meaning that an individual may apply it in any one or more contexts of he/her life. Although it has been studied mainly in the academic context, it should be present in any personally relevant domain with the potential for success or failure.

Though defensive pessimism may prove effective in handling anxiety provoking events, other people are annoyed by it, which can cause problems with relationships (Clarke & Edmond, Jr., 2002). Sometimes the more optimistic person will try to convince the more pessimistic person to try to be more positive, but this does not work. Defensive pessimists may also have problems with performance when there is not time to prepare for a situation. Hence, it is important to note that defensive pessimism can be effective when there is enough time to prepare for an upcoming event.

Although the constructs death anxiety and defensive pessimism have been studied extensively independently, there is little or no research addressing both of these concepts together. Furthermore, there has not yet been an attempt to formulate an approach to explain the relationship between these two constructs (defensive pessimism and death anxiety).

Psychological well-beingrefers to how people evaluate their lives; how we live, work and how we play. Edwards (2005) stated that Psychological well-being refers to positive mental health. Research has shown that psychological well-being is a diverse multidimensional concept which develops through a combination of emotional regulation, personality characteristics; identity and life experience. Psychological well-being can increase with age, education, extraversion, and consciousness and decreases with neuroticism (Keyes et al., 2002).

Psychological well-being is quite similar to other terms that refer to positive mental states, such as happiness or satisfaction. Psychological well-being is usually conceptualized as some combination of positive affective states such as happiness (the hedonic perspective) and functioning with optimal effectiveness in individual and social life (the eudaimonic perspective) (Deci & Ryan 2008). Psychological well-being is about lives going well. It is the combination of feeling good and functioning effectively. By definition therefore, people with high psychological well-being report feeling happy, capable, well-supported, satisfied with life, and so on; (Huppert, 2009).

Psychological well-being is attained by achieving a state of balance affected by both challenging and rewarding life events (Dodge, et al., 2012). Psychological well-being consists of positive relationships with others, personal mastery, autonomy, a feeling of purpose and meaning in life, and personal growth and development (Ryff, 1989).

Pavot and Diener (1993), defined psychological well-being as the subjective experience of two aspects of one's psychological experience:

·         Emotional or affective experience (i.e., positive and negative affect)

·         Conceptual or cognitive experience (i.e., satisfaction with life, relationships, work, and leisure).

Two important ingredients in psychological wellbeing are the subjective happy feelings brought on by something we enjoy and the feeling that what we are doing with our lives has some meaning and purpose. The term “Hedonic” wellbeing is normally used to refer to the subjective feelings of happiness and, the less well-known term, “Eudiamonic” wellbeing is used to refer to the purposeful aspect of psychological wellbeing.

The term psychosocial well-being is used recently in researches to refer to a wide range of issues including, but not limited to, mental, emotional, social, physical, economic, cultural, and spiritual health and, consequently, it has been defined in numerous ways. It is agreed that a model of psychosocial well-being should include and reflect the interconnectedness of the various aspects of overall well-being (Linley, et al., 2009). Psychological problems are associated with higher levels of death anxiety. The presence of psychological problems means the absence of psychological wellbeing.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Death is a natural phenomenon just as life. It is not to be afraid of and not to lose psychological balance (Wani, 2018). Death Anxiety though present should not affect the optimal functioning of an individual, though researches have shown that a little amount of anxiety is healthy. The Christian body in its aim to maintain its religiosity overlook other aspect of like such as their cognitive perception of things or psychological maintenance or biological upkeep. This negligence has caused a lot of havoc including death; which in turn has triggered anxiety among the Christian fold. Based on these forgoing mentioned problems, this study tend to determine how defensive pessimism and psychological wellbeing will predict death anxiety (if it does), and also determine which of the Christians traditions (i.e. Orthodox, Pentecostal and Catholic) will report the highest in death anxiety.

1.3 Purpose of Study

The main purpose of this study is to investigate death anxiety and it level across the various Christian traditions (i.e. high or low death anxiety)

This study will specifically determine:

1.      Whether there is a relationship between defensive pessimism and death anxiety.

2.      Whether there is a relationship between psychological well-being and death anxiety.

1.4 Significance of Study

The study will be significant to the following people in several ways:

This study since it will be conducted among the different Christian traditions will bring to light some similarities or difference of their perceptions or feelings on some of the important aspect of life (in this case death).

The findings of this study would add to existing literature on defensive pessimism, psychological well-being and death anxiety. It would be a basis for further researches and contribution.





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