Stories for All Ages: Narrating Anger Reduces Distress Across Childhood and Adolescence

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Abstract

The study’s goals were twofold: (a) to examine the effectiveness of narrating an angry experience, compared with relying on distraction or mere reexposure to the experience, for anger reduction across childhood and adolescence, and (b) to identify the features of narratives that are associated with more and less anger reduction for younger and older youths and for boys and girls. Participants were 241 youths (117 boys) between the ages of 8 and 17. When compared with mere reexposure, narration was effective at reducing youth’s anger both concurrently and in lasting ways; though narration was less effective than distraction at concurrently reducing anger, its effect was longer lasting. Contrary to expectation, there were no overall age differences in the relative effectiveness of narration for anger reduction; however, the analyses of the quality of youth’s narratives and of the relations between various narrative features and reductions in anger indicated that narration works to reduce distress among youth via processes that are distinct from those postulated for adults. Altogether, this study’s findings lend strong support to the potential of narration for helping youth across a broad age range manage anger experiences in ways that can reduce distress.

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