Mortuary practices on children

Stephanie Jo Fox, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


This study is a reevaluation of past theories that recommend the use of mortuary practices to determine rank within cultures as applied to children. A comparative study of 40 cultures world wide is conducted using the Human Relation Area Files for ethnographic examples of mortuary practices. Funerary and mourning rituals performed for both children and adults are studied to see how the deceased's social position affects mortuary treatment. Thirteen of 26 egalitarian cultures that yielded information have funerary and mourning rituals that are the same or very similar for both adults and children. With thirteen remaining egalitarian cultures the data indicates that once a child has been initiated into the community, treatment upon death is similar to that of adults. The treatment of a dead child is determined by variables independent of rank, such as grief, initiation into the group, or the importance of children to the group's survival.