Adolescents’ Intergenerational Narratives Across Cultures

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Abstract

Adolescents’ intergenerational narratives—the stories they tell about their mothers’ and fathers’ early experiences—are an important component of their identities (Fivush & Merrill, 2016; Merrill & Fivush, 2016). This study explored adolescents’ intergenerational narratives across cultures. Adolescents aged 12 to 21 from 3 cultural groups in New Zealand (Chinese: n = 88; Māori: n = 91; European: n = 91) narrated stories about their mothers’ and fathers’ childhood experiences. In these narratives, New Zealand Chinese and Māori adolescents included more identity connections (statements linking their own identities to their parents’ experiences) than did New Zealand European adolescents, and New Zealand Chinese adolescents’ intergenerational narratives were more coherent than were New Zealand European and Māori adolescents’ narratives. New Zealand Chinese and Māori adolescents were also more likely to report didactic reasons for their mothers’ telling of the narratives, whereas New Zealand European adolescents were more likely to report reasons of sharing family history. Across cultures, but only in their mother narratives, adolescent girls included more references to subjective perspectives (emotions, evaluations, and cognitions) than did adolescent boys. Older adolescents also used more subjective perspective terms than younger adolescents. These findings suggest that intergenerational narratives serve different functions when adolescents across cultures explore their identities. These narratives may be especially important for adolescents growing up in cultures with an interdependent orientation.

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