Psychological defenses against death anxiety: integrating Terror Management Theory and Firestone's Separation Theory

Death Stud. 2007 Sep;31(8):727-50. doi: 10.1080/07481180701490628.


The author attempts to integrate Terror Management Theory (TMT) and R. W. Firestone's Separation Theory (1984, 1994). Both theories emphasize defense against death anxiety as a key human motive. Whereas TMT focuses extensively on self-esteem and cultural worldview, Firestone posited additional defenses such as gene survival, self-nourishing behaviors, addictive couple bonds, and adopting an anti-sexual approach to life. TMT offers a strong base of experimentally validated ideas and the experimental paradigms to test the broad array of defenses enumerated in Firestone's Separation Theory. Therefore, an integration of the two theories would be beneficial to a fuller understanding of psychological defenses against death anxiety.

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety*
  • Anxiety, Separation* / psychology
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Defense Mechanisms*
  • Fear* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Self Concept*
  • Sexuality / psychology