Volume 30, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1387-6740
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9935
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



Narrating personal experiences helps people make sense of them and contributes to improved well-being. However, little is known about how people recount stressful experiences that are interpersonal in nature. In this study, middle-aged North American women ( = 36), with lifetime histories of victimization, provided accounts of a recent stressful interpersonal event. High Point Analysis was applied to analyze the narratives. The majority (55%) of narratives were characterized by extensive evaluative content, categorized as End at High Point. The next most common (38%) category of responses were Emotional Narratives, characterized by a concentration of evaluative statements with little or no complicating action. Thus, participants’ memories of their stressful interpersonal events were caught in an unresolved, emotionally charged, limbo. Results reveal a novel approach to analyzing narratives of interpersonal stressors, and shed light on the relationship between victimization histories and narration of interpersonal experiences.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Blake, D., Weathers, F., Nagy, L., Kaloupek, D., Charney, D., & Keane, T.
    (1998) Clinician Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-IV. National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Bohanek, J. G., Fivush, R., & Walker, E.
    (2005) Memories of positive and negative emotional events. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 19, 51–66. doi: 10.1002/acp1064
    https://doi.org/10.1002/acp1064 [Google Scholar]
  3. Byrne, C. A., Hyman, I. E., & Scott, K. L.
    (2001) Comparisons of memories for traumatic events and other experiences. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 15, S119–S133. doi:  10.1002/acp.837
    https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.837 [Google Scholar]
  4. Cloitre, M., Scarvalone, P., & Difede, J.
    (1997) Posttraumatic stress disorder, self- and interpersonal dysfunction among sexually retraumatized women. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 10, 437–452. 10.1002/jts.2490100309
    https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.2490100309 [Google Scholar]
  5. Deese, J.
    (1984) Thought into language: The psychology of a language. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. De Vogli, R., Chandola, T., & Marmot, M. G.
    (2007) Negative aspects of close relationships and heart disease. JAMA Internal Medicine, 8, 1951–1957. doi: 10.1001/archinte.167.18.195
    https://doi.org/10.1001/archinte.167.18.195 [Google Scholar]
  7. DiLillo, D.
    (2001) Interpersonal functioning among women reporting a history of childhood sexual abuse: Empirical findings and methodological issues. Clinical Psychology Review, 21, 553–576. 10.1016/S0272‑7358(99)00072‑0
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0272-7358(99)00072-0 [Google Scholar]
  8. Ewart, C. K., & Kolodner, K. B.
    (1991) Social Competence Interview for assessing physiological reactivity in adolescents. Psychosomatic Medicine, 53, 289–304. 10.1097/00006842‑199105000‑00003
    https://doi.org/10.1097/00006842-199105000-00003 [Google Scholar]
  9. Foa, E. B., & Rothbaum, B. O.
    (1998) Treating the trauma of rape: Cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD. New York: Guilford Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Goodman, L. A., Corcoran, C., Turner, K., Yuan, N., & Green, B. L.
    (1998) Assessing traumatic event exposure: General issues and preliminary findings for the Stressful Life Events Screening Questionnaire. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 11, 521–542. 10.1023/A:1024456713321
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1024456713321 [Google Scholar]
  11. Jørgensen, C. R., Bernsten, D., Bech, M., Kjølbye, M., Bennedsen, B. E., & Ramsgaard, S. B.
    (2012) Identity-related autobiographical memories and cultural life scripts in patients with Borderline Personality Disorder. Consciousness and Cognition, 21, 788–798. doi:  10.1016/j.concog.2012.01.010
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2012.01.010 [Google Scholar]
  12. Klein, K. & Boals, A.
    (2010) Coherence and narrative structure in personal accounts of stressful events. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 29, 256–280. 10.1521/jscp.2010.29.3.256
    https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2010.29.3.256 [Google Scholar]
  13. Labov, W.
    (1972) Language in the inner city. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Landis, J. R., & Koch, G. G.
    (1977) The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics, 33(1), 159–174. 10.2307/2529310
    https://doi.org/10.2307/2529310 [Google Scholar]
  15. McCabe, A.
    (1996) Chameleon readers: Teaching children to appreciate all kinds of good stories. New York: McGraw Hill.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. (2017) Children’s personal narratives reflect where they come from, reveal who they are, and predict where they are going. InN. Kucirkova, C. Snow, V. Grover & C. McBride (Eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Early Literacy Education (pp.308–324). Abington, U.K.: Routledge. 10.4324/9781315766027‑28
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315766027-28 [Google Scholar]
  17. McCabe, A., Hillier, A., & Shapiro, C.
    (2013) Structure of personal narratives of adults with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43, 733–738. doi:  10.1007/s10803‑012‑1585‑x
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-012-1585-x [Google Scholar]
  18. McCabe, A., & Peterson, C.
    (1984) What makes a good story?Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 13, 457–480. 10.1007/BF01068179
    https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01068179 [Google Scholar]
  19. McCabe, A., & Rollins, P. R.
    (1994) Assessment of preschool narrative skills: Prerequisite for literacy. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology: A Journal of Clinical Practice, 3, 45–56. 10.1044/1058‑0360.0301.45
    https://doi.org/10.1044/1058-0360.0301.45 [Google Scholar]
  20. Newsom, J. T., Nishishiba, M., Morgan, D. L., & Rook, K. S.
    (2003) The relative importance of three domains of positive and negative social exchanges: A longitudinal model with comparable measures. Psychology and Aging, 18, 746–754. doi:  10.1037/0882‑7974.18.4.746
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0882-7974.18.4.746 [Google Scholar]
  21. Newton, T. L., Parker, B. C., Ho, I. K.
    (2005) Ambulatory cardiovascular functioning in healthy postmenopausal women with victimization histories. Biological Psychology, 70, 121–130. 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2004.12.003
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2004.12.003 [Google Scholar]
  22. Niles, A. N., Haltom, K. E. B., Lieberman, M. D., Hur, C., & Stanton, A. L.
    (2016) Writing content predicts benefit from written expressive disclosure: Evidence for repeated exposure and self-affirmation. Cognition and Emotion, 30, 258–274. doi:  10.1080/02699931.2014.995598
    https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2014.995598 [Google Scholar]
  23. Ouyang, J., & McKeown, K.
    (2014, May). Towards automatic detection of narrative structure. Paper presented at theNinth International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation. Reykjavik, Iceland.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Pennebaker, J. W.
    (1997) Opening up: The healing power of expressing emotions (Rev. ed.). New York: Guilford.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. (2004) Writing to heal: A guided journal for recovering from trauma & emotional upheaval. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Pennebaker, J. W., Colder, M., & Sharp, L. K.
    (1990) Accelerating the coping process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 528–537. 10.1037/0022‑3514.58.3.528
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.58.3.528 [Google Scholar]
  27. Pennebaker, J. W., & Seagal, J. D.
    (1999) Forming a story: The health benefits of narrative. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 55, 1243–1254. 10.1002/(SICI)1097‑4679(199910)55:10<1243::AID‑JCLP6>3.0.CO;2‑N
    https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1097-4679(199910)55:10<1243::AID-JCLP6>3.0.CO;2-N [Google Scholar]
  28. Peterson, C., & McCabe, A.
    (1983) Developmental psycholinguistics: Three ways of looking at a child’s narrative. NY: Plenum. 10.1007/978‑1‑4757‑0608‑6
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4757-0608-6 [Google Scholar]
  29. Peterson, C., Smorti, A., & Tani, F.
    (2008) Parental influences on earliest memories. Memory, 16(6), 569–578. doi:  10.1080/02687030802025984
    https://doi.org/10.1080/02687030802025984 [Google Scholar]
  30. Ramirez-Esparza, N., & Pennebaker, J. W.
    (2006) Do good stories produce good health?Narrative Inquiry, 16(1), 211–219. 10.1075/ni.16.1.26ram
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ni.16.1.26ram [Google Scholar]
  31. Reese, E., Haden, C. A., Baker-Ward, L., Bauer, P., Fivush, R., & Ornstein, P. A.
    (2011) Coherence of personal narratives across the lifespan: A multidimensional model and coding method. Journal of Cognitive Development, 12, 424–462. doi: 10.1080/15248372‑2011‑587854
    https://doi.org/10.1080/15248372-2011-587854 [Google Scholar]
  32. Resick, P. A., & Schnicke, M. K.
    (1992) Cognitive Processing Therapy for sexual assault victims. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 60, 748–760. 10.1037/0022‑006X.60.5.748
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.60.5.748 [Google Scholar]
  33. Smyth, J., & Helm, R.
    (2003) Focused expressive writing as self-help for stress and trauma. JCLP/In Session: Psychotherapy in Practice, 59, 227–235. doi:  10.1002/jclp.10144
    https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.10144 [Google Scholar]
  34. Smyth, J., True, N., & Souto, J.
    (2001) Effects of writing about traumatic experiences: The necessity for narrative structuring. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 20, 161–172. doi:  10.1521/jscp.
    https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp. [Google Scholar]
  35. Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N.
    (1998, November). Prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. National Institute of Justice Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Research in Brief.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics
    U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (1999) National Crime Victimization Survey. Basic Screen Questionnaire.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Westby, C., & Culatta, B.
    (2016) Telling tales: Personal event narratives and life stories. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 47(4), 260–282. doi:  10.1044/2016_LSHSS‑15‑0073
    https://doi.org/10.1044/2016_LSHSS-15-0073 [Google Scholar]
  38. Wilson, T. D.
    (2011) Redirect: Changing the stories we live by. Boston: Back Bay Books.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Wilson, T. D., & Linville, P. W.
    (1982) Improving the academic performance of college freshmen: Attribution therapy revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42, 367–376. 10.1037/0022‑3514.42.2.367
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.42.2.367 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): High Point Analysis; interpersonal encounters; stressful events
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error