Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. H. Thompson Prout

Second Advisor

Dr. Alicia Fedewa


The research on bereaved children’s outcomes is mixed, with the course of grief in young people prone to variation. Each child’s reaction following a loss is unique and should be considered in relation to psychological, academic, familial, social, environmental, and a number of additional factors. However, what is known is the important role that a supportive environment, stable adult figures, and early intervention may have for grieving youth. Teachers could be considered the first line of defense in identifying youth who are struggling with a loss, as they are significant adults with whom students have consistent contact on a daily basis. However, very little is known about the teacher’s role in the identification and support of grieving students. Therefore, the purpose of this project was to explore the teacher’s role in the grief support process at school, as well as teacher perceptions of childhood grief and the ways in which a teacher’s own early experiences with death may affect the provision of services. These factors were explored through the administration of an online mixed-methods survey to a random sample of 225 Kindergarten through 12th grade teachers in the state of Kentucky.

The findings of this study were supportive of the hypothesis that having a bereaved student in class is nearly universal. The majority of teachers in this study reported receiving no training related to death and grief issues pre-service, with minimal training offered at the school level. Teacher perceptions about grief were not found to differ significantly overall between teachers of various school levels, counties, or early-bereaved status. Additional findings, limitations, implications, as well as directions for future research are discussed.