Funeral Practices in Ghana and the United States: A Cultural Comparison

Alice Boateng, Linda Anngela-Cole


Across the life course, culture is never more evident than at the end of life. Due to the great variability of end-of-life practices and observed customs across the world, it is important to understand cultural differences from a variety of perspectives. This study provides a comparative analysis of death and funeral practices in three cultures: (1) Akan culture in Ghana, West Africa; (2) African-Americans born in the U.S.; and (3) European Americans in the United States. Two frameworks are used: (1) the biopsychosocial, spiritual, cultural framework; and (2) a framework of independent/interdependent cultural values, to compare the three cultural groups in a qualitative exploratory study with 20 participants from each group. The purpose is to explore whether African-American end-of-life traditions are more similar to the majority culture’s (European American) customs in the United States or to customs still practiced in Ghana today. This study also considers how the findings might be used to enhance culturally sensitive services in the provision of end-of-life care. Findings suggest that, although African-Americans have lived in the United States for over a century, their culture retains aspects reflective of African culture and traditions related to end-of-life activities. This study offers unique findings that address issues of cultural humility, sensitivity, and competency. An understanding of these issues is crucial for anyone working in human services and for practitioners supporting dying and bereaved families.

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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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