Near-Death Experiences of Children, Conclusions from the largest study ever reported
by Jeffrey Long, MD
What about older children? Do they have the same NDE
content as adults? It is difficult to select the age that separates children
from adults. Eighteen years old is a legal definition of adulthood in many
countries. However, youth between the ages of sixteen and eighteen are able to
drive, often start employed jobs, and frequently begin romantic relationships. I
consider those between sixteen and eighteen years old to be between childhood
and adulthood rather than to be children. With this consideration, I defined
children to be younger
than sixteen years old and adults
to be age sixteen and older. Using the same methodology I
used to study the content of NDEs in the very young, the content of the NDEs of
133 children and 478 adults were compared.
The results: The responses to the thirty-three questions about NDE content were reviewed. There was only one question that had a statistically different response between the two groups. This question asked, “Did you see a light?” Children were more likely to answer “Yes” and less likely to answer “No.” A similarly worded question asked, “Did you see or feel surrounded by a brilliant light?” Possible responses included “Light clearly of mystical or otherworldly origin,” “Unusually bright light,” and “Neither.” I believe this latter question, one of the NDE Scale questions, better addresses the mystical, unearthly light that NDErs often encounter. There was no statistical difference between children and adults in their response to this question.
This group of 133 children, age fifteen and below, appears to have NDE content
that is identical to that of adult NDEs. Considering the above discussion, there
does not appear to be any statistical difference between the two groups in the
percentage of occurrence of each NDE element during their NDEs. This is the
largest study ever published that directly compares the content of childhood and
I coauthored a book chapter that included a review of thirty years of scholarly research on childhood NDEs. That chapter was written before we had the results available from the NDERF study of childhood NDEs.1 From prior published scholarly literature, we could still conclude:
Over the first three decades of NDE research, investigators have published findings on several hundred childhood NDEs. NDEs in children appear to be accurately remembered, even if shared years later in adulthood. The contents of children’s NDEs appear similar to those of adults and do not appear to be substantially affected by age.2
1. J. Long, P. Perry, Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2010). 140-141.
2. J. Holden, J. Long, and J. MacLurg, “Characteristics of Western Near-Death Experiencers,” in The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences: Thirty Years of Investigation, ed. J. Holden, B. Greyson, and D. James (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2009). 114.