Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




A study completed by Dawson, Santos, and Burdick in 1990 surveyed close survivors of deceased persons from six metropolitan areas of the United States to investigate the differences in final arrangements when burial or cremation was employed as the method of body disposition. The present study chose to replicate the cremation aspect of Dawson’s study in rural Nebraska. However, as work progressed, it became clear the small number o f responses received would not be statistically significant. At this point, a qualitative aspect was introduced into the study. Nine case studies were obtained to provide a broader scope of understanding regarding the differences in final arrangements for cremation. Several important differences were found with regard to cremation practices in a rural versus a metropolitan setting. These differences included where the services were held, the frequency of services even being held, use of flowers and monies for remembrance items, and the frequency of social gatherings after a service. As all of these areas ranked higher in the rural setting than the metropolitan setting, it is interesting to note the aspect of tradition still plays a large role primarily due to its familiarity to the surviving family members. In both the surveys and the case studies, it was overwhelmingly obvious the decision for cremation was the preference of the deceased. This study did not address specific personal beliefs that may have contributed to this decision. However, this study found the majority o f the case studies had disease ravaged bodies which may have been a factor for cremation as these individuals may have not been comfortable with their body image. Again, the present study did not ask for cause of death in the quantitative aspect of this study which may have shed additional light on this area. As traditions gradually fade with regard to ethnic and religious concerns, and as individuals wish to exert more control over our dying, death and final disposition, more people will opt for more non-traditional methods of body disposition, including cremation.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Gerontology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts in Social Gerontology University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1996, Nadine C. Freshman