Thursday, May 21, 2009


Story tellers All!
A Cautionary Tale: Watch what stories you tell your children.

For those of you working with story in community, I recently came upon an interesting study on how the themes emerging in family stories changed according to which parent was doing the telling and the gender of the child being told. []

Story telling as a family activity provides a window into important themes of group membership such as intimacy, power, and individual responsibility. As an activity, family stories are an opportunity to share family values and lessons in growing up and aids in the construction of meaning and understanding of the social world.

Parents were asked to tell their son or daughter stories about when the parent was growing up. Stories were coded for the strength of affiliation, achievement, and autonomy themes. Fathers told stories with stronger autonomy themes than did mothers, and sons were more likely to hear stories with themes of autonomy than were daughters. An interaction was found between gender type of parent and gender of child for strength of achievement theme. Family stories are one aspect of socialization that includes an interaction between child and parent characteristics.

It is interesting to note that the study also suggested that, through narratives, mothers may socialize emotion differently to boys and girls. In recounting past events, mothers were more likely to tell stories of anger to their sons and stories of sadness to their daughters A general finding suggests females tend to frame experiences along lines of affiliative themes and males tend to frame experiences along lines of achievement. Themes of affiliation and achievement play an important part in the development of personal identity.

This study focused on how the way parent's tell their children family stories may be one avenue for the socialization of achievement and affiliation.

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