This study investigated the role of gender, personality type and coping pattern on death anxiety among police officers in Owerri, Imo State. Two hundred and fourty-two (242) police officers were sampled using convenience sampling method from the Imo State Central Police Station at Shell Camp Owerri participated in this study. Participants were within the age range of 26 to 57 years with a mean age of 40.23. The participants were administered with the Type A Behaviour Scale, Death Anxiety Scale (DAS) and the Problem Focus Inventory (PFI). Three hypotheses were postulated and tested. Cross sectional survey design was adopted and 3-Way ANOVA was used to analyze data. Result showed that personality type had no significant influence on death anxiety while coping pattern had significant influence death anxiety. Also, gender had no significant influence death anxiety. The study also revealed that there is no gender difference in death anxiety and helps to refute the common belief that females have higher death anxiety levels.
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The history of human life has shown that there are events that happen to humans, which they have no control of and which is considered their fate. One of these events is death and it is faced with different analyses. Some consider it as a stage of human life, and some consider it as the end of life. Although it seems that those who believe in the first instance should worry about death less, the reality is that followers of both perspectives often feel anxiety from thinking about death (Vafaei, AsgarizadehandRahmati, 2011). Phrases such as “kicked the bucket, passed away, moved on, laid to rest and went to a better place” are used to discuss death. Hence, the thought of death or dying is something that is uncomfortable and to some extent frightening, for some, if not most people in modern society (Chiun&Choo, 2009). Death anxiety has always been a prominent research topic in modern societies where it is believed that this anxiety can be attenuated by different variables (Chiun&Choo, 2009).
Death is viewed as an event that one generally has no control over and thus generates anxiety amongst people (Schumaker, Barracholugh&Vagg, 1988). This anxiety is thus termed “Death anxiety”. Death anxiety is an attitude that an individual holds toward death and can be defined as a negative and apprehensive feeling that one has when thinking about death and dying (Richardson, Berman, &Piwowarski, 1983) and is used interchangeably with fear of death (Wink & Scott, 2005). As with all types of attitude, many factors are involved in influencing and shaping an individual’s death anxiety. Thus, it has come to no surprise to researchers that many variables could affect the degree to which an individual experiences death anxiety, and these variables include; age, gender, religious beliefs, one’s coping pattern, and health (Fortner&Neimeyer, 1999). All of these variables affect people’s experiences and it is these experience that prompt people to re-evaluate and re-examine certain attitudes and beliefs they hold.
It has been noted that death anxiety may neither stay stagnant nor increase or decrease progressively over the years (Tomer&Eliason, 1996). A number of things can change an individual’s death anxiety such as familiarity with death, a sudden loss, religion, physical ailment, and psychosocial maturity (Chuin&Choo, 2009). How death anxiety is experienced and expressed largely differs from individual to individual. Hence, even with so many studies conducted, the results are mixed as to which variable plays a part and to what extent that variable influences death anxiety (Chiun&Choo, 2009). This study chooses to focus on three specific variables and they are; personality type, gender and coping pattern.
For the first time, type A behaviour was described in 1959 by two cardiologists as ‘an action-emotion complex that can be observed in any person who is aggressively involved in chronic, incessant struggle to achieve many goals at the same time (Agbu&Ibida, 2013). Type A individuals are described as ambitious, aggressive, business-like, controlling, highly competitive,impatient, preoccupied with their status, time-conscious, and tightly-wound. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving workaholics who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence (Friedman, 1996). Because of these characteristics, Type A individuals are sometimes described as “stress junkies” (Agbu&Ibida, 2013). Friedman suggests that Type A behavior is expressed in three major symptoms: free-floating hostility, which can be triggered by even minor incidents; time urgency and impatience, which causes irritation and exasperation; and a competitive drive, which causes stress and an achievement-driven mentality. The first of these symptoms is believed to be covert and therefore less observable, while the other two are more overt.
It is assumed that type A individuals are more prone to stress and anxiety issues because of their nature.
On the other hand Type B personality includes people who live at a lower stress level and typically work steadily, enjoying achievements but not becoming stressed when they are not achieved. Furthermore, Type B personalities may have a poor sense of time schedule and can be predominately right brained thinkers (Hisam, Rahman, Mashhadi&Gaza, 2014). By comparison, type B personalities are relaxed and easygoing, less concerned with the pressures of success (but are not lazy), and generally lead less hectic lives. Because of their easy going nature, they are less likely to experience stress and are less prone to anxiety.
Later research, primarily by psychologists, extended the early work by searching for the motives that give rise to type Abehaviour. This research showed that type A personalities differ from type B personalities in having a higher need to control their lives and desiring a clear appraisal of their skills. According to this perspective, type Abehaviour can best be thought of as a tactic for demonstrating control and talent. Situations that are uncontrollable, unpredictable, or create uncertainty about ability are stressful for those with type A personality. Even though death is inevitable, it comes with uncertainty and is not predictable. People who find it difficult to deal with uncertainty may have higher death anxiety than their counterparts. This study seeks to find the relationship between personality type and death anxiety.
Chodorow (1989) proposes that boys and girls, at a very young age, experience relationships and issues of dependency differently. For boys, separation and individuation are critically tied to identity formation since separation from the mother is essential for the development of masculinity (Chelgren, 2000). For girls, issues of feminine identity do not depend on the achievement of separation from the mother or on the progress of individuation (Chelgren, 2000). Hence, the way both genders handle emotional or psychological issues such as death anxiety differs.
Various studies investigated the differences between gender in terms of death anxiety and their results showed that there are gender differences in the way men and women experience and express death anxiety (Dalda, 2011). For instance, Yang & Chen (2000) found that women tend to express negative emotions toward death, whereas, men tend to accept the inevitability of death and confront death related issues when they arise. There are many other studies that discovered that death anxiety is higher among women and there are also many arguments as to why death anxiety is higher in women (Chuin&Choo, 2009). A reason why this has been so was proposed by Schumaker, Barraclough&Vagg (1988) who said that in most societies, men are encouraged to pursue success and attain accomplishments which would cultivate the illusion of immortality while women are not. This illusion is useful as people rely on it to counter and conquer death anxiety. Other researchers declared that because women are more willing to admit troubling feelings as compared to men and men are taught and expected to be calm and strong in the face of troubling situations and expressing pain and fears is seen as a sign of weakness for men their (women) death anxiety scores are higher while others still claim that death might have different connotations and implications for men and women and thus may be construed differently (Schumaker, Barraclongh&Vagg, 1988). This would affect their levels of death anxiety as they might fear different dimensions of death anxiety (Chuin&Choo, 2009).
Coping, like the experience of work stress is a complex, dynamic process and coping efforts are triggered by the appraisal of situations as threatening, harmful or anxiety producing (Meyers &Brewin, 1994). Coping is an individual difference variable that moderates the stress outcome relationships and coping styles encompasses trait-like combinations of thoughts beliefs and behaviours that result from the experiences of stress and may be expressed independently of the type of stressor (Meyers &Brewin, 1994).Shaman (1967) offered an early perspective on what he termed an adaptive coping style. This response set was characterized by three intergradient; the availability of energy directly focused on potential sources of the difficulty; a clear distinction between events internal and external to the person; comforting rather than avoiding external demands with needs of self.
A major coping pattern used when faced with death anxiety is repressive coping pattern (Mayers&Brewin, 1994). Repressive coping pattern has been conceptualized as a process used to keep unpleasant and painful experience out of one’s consciousness. It has been found out that individuals who characteristically use repressive coping style as a defence strategy tend to recall fewer negative life experiences (Mendolain&Tesser, 1969). Since death anxiety and death related experiences are negative in nature, a repressor should be less aware of death anxiety and to report fewer negative experiences related to death. The way in which repressors have limited access to past negative experiences and their overall positive illusions have been found to bias self-reports (David &Schwatx, 1987).
Death anxiety can be intensified when witnessing the trauma of death, the long lasting and painful process of dying and or images of decomposing corpses. In addition, upon the recognition of one’s own mortality, the thoughts of leaving various unattained goals behind can be very disturbing (firestone, 1994). Police officers constantly face these situations and its effect on them has not been fully explored.One coping pattern defence mechanism referred to in this literature is “humour”. According to Freud, humour is the highest of defence mechanisms (Martin &Lef court, 1983). Humour has been viewed as a way of dealing with life’s problems, as a defence mechanism and as a survival skill used to distance one’s self from a problem (Kuper& Martin, 1993). Stevenson (1993) suggests that humour allows a person to confront fear, thus, gaining a sense of control over that fear. In a sense, it would seem that humour can be used as a form of coping. Coping is a way to reduce, tolerate or rise above the effect of stressful circumstances (Stevenson, 1993).
Martin (1989) breaks coping strategies down into three categories; appraisal focused emotion focused and problem focused. Appraisal focused coping strategies are used when one attempts to change one’s perceptions and or cognition so that a situation that is frost believed to be unbearable can be seen as bearable and controllable. Humour can be used to give a different perspective to a stressful, seemingly unbearable situation. Emotion focused coping strategies attempt to reduce physiological stress and humour can be used to reduce not only psychological anxiety, but physiological anxiety as well (Martin, 1989). Problem focused coping strategies attempt to change the external situation to make it less stressful, and humour can be used in this manner by lightening the mood of a situation.
Statement of the Problem
Life is so precious that even the weakest and most deficient person would want to prolong his or life. Death on the other hand is threatening and the mere mention of it brings anxiety in people, not withstanding their age, gender, socioeconomic status or educational level. Police officers come across a good number of life threatening situations in the course of carrying out their duties, so it is likely that they have a reasonable level of death anxiety but the factors that may influence their level of death anxiety is not yet known or clear. Death anxiety becomes a problem when it becomes too strong and controls one’s life and it makes it harder for one to live a quality life. The individual avoids events, looks for ways to be younger and is preoccupied with the thoughts of death. Panic attacks could also be frequent as a result of high death anxiety. One’s death anxiety level may be determined by the person’s personality type, gender or coping pattern.
This study therefore intends to investigate if one’s personality type, gender or the coping pattern he or she adopts will influence his/her perception about death and his or her anxiety level when faced with the issue of death or dying. This will help mental health professionals determine what factors to look out for when handling death anxiety issues especially as it affects police officers.
Purpose of the Study
The aim of this study is;
- To determine if personality type will significantly influence the death anxiety level of police officers in Imo state.
- To determine if gender will significantly influence police officers’ level of death anxiety.
- To determine if police officers’ coping pattern will significantly influence their level of death anxiety.