Measurement of defense against death anxiety : construction and partial validation of an objective instrument
McMullin, Joseph Paul
Master of Arts
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This study involved the construction and partial validation of two scales (Ultimate Rescuer, UR and Specialness, SP) that Yalom (1960) suggests measure the beliefs one utilizes as a defense against death anxiety. Evidence for how they relate to cognitive fear of death measures (Threat Index, TI, Templer Death Anxiety Scale, DAS', and Collett-Lester Fear of Death Scale, CL) was obtained. One hundred and twenty-nine items considered to best represent the two beliefs were counterbalanced and administered to 150 introductory psychology students. Those items with item-total correlation coefficients with a probability of .001 or better were retained. Two scales, with 15 items per scale, were constructed from these items. Each scale was found to have high internal consistency reliability, (UR, r = .89; SP, r = .82) and were cross validated on a second similar population (UR, r = 86; SP, r = .87). Factor analysis resulted in the UR items all loading on 1 factor, while the SP items loaded on 2 factors. Construct validation procedures revealed mixed results. The expected negative correlation between the defense scales and fear of death measures was only found for the SP Scale and the CL. No correlation was found for the UR Scale. T-tests for criterion groups revealed that the UR group had significantly higher UR scores and significantly lower fear of death scores. No differences were found for the SP group. In general, the results partrally establish a relationship between the Ultimate Rescuer and Specialness Scales and conscious fear of death, thus lending some support to Yalom's (1980) theory of death anxiety, implication for future research is discussed.