Teens tell different tales about themselves depending on gender

September 5, 2012

During adolescence, the stories young people tell about themselves reflects their development of a personal identity and sense of self, and those autobiographical narratives vary depending on the teens' gender, according to a University of Missouri psychologist and her colleagues. Parents can use this knowledge of how teens talk about themselves to help understand the tumultuous transitions of their children into adults.

"Autobiographical stories tell us details about adolescent psychology that and observations of behavior cannot," said Jennifer Bohanek, assistant professor of in the College of Arts and Science. "Narratives provide information about how adolescents interpret memories as well as how they come to know themselves. Other people then come to know the teens by the stories they tell about themselves. The differences between ' stories suggest there may be differences in the way male and female teens understand themselves and present themselves to the world."

Bohanek and her colleagues found that females tended to tell longer, more coherent stories. Females' stories were also generally more detailed and contained more descriptions of their own internal emotional states. Males' stories tended to be more matter-of-fact and showed less self-reflection. These differences were consistent in both positive and negative stories. The researchers suggested that the may indicate females have a greater inclination to reflect on past experiences and use their memories to give personal meaning to past events.

To conduct her study, Bohanek and her colleagues asked 65 adolescents between 13 and 16 years of age to narrate two positive and two negative stories. The teens came from racially and economically diverse backgrounds. The study was conducted in the teens' homes by one or two female research assistants. The teens' stories were then analyzed for , theme, narrative development and self-reflection.

"Our study filled an important gap in the research on autobiographical narratives," said Bohanek. "Previous studies looked at gender differences in children's and adults' storytelling. Other research has found there are differences in the ways parents tell stories to male and female children as well as differences in how emotional content was explained. Other studies found that families talked about past events every five minutes on average, so reflecting on the past seems to have an important influence on family relationships. Our study suggests that these interactions may affect as they develop their own definition of themselves."

Explore further: Researcher studies ways to help teens overcome fears and stigmas of mental illness

More information: The study, "Gender Differences in Adolescents' Autobiographical Narratives," was published in the Journal of Cognition and Development.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Serious research into what makes us laugh

November 24, 2015

More complex jokes tend to be funnier but only up to a point, Oxford researchers have found. Jokes that are too complicated tend to lose the audience.

Psychologists dispute continuum theory of sexual orientation

November 19, 2015

Washington State University researchers have established a categorical distinction between people who are heterosexual and those who are not. By analyzing the reported sexual behavior, identity and attraction of more than ...

Babies have logical reasoning before age one, study finds

November 18, 2015

Human infants are capable of deductive problem solving as early as 10 months of age, a new study by psychologists at Emory University and Bucknell finds. The journal Developmental Science is publishing the research, showing ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.