What's in a story? The relationship between narrative completeness and adjustment to relationship dissolution

Jody Koenig Kellas, Valerie Manusov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

49 Scopus citations

Abstract

The construction of narratives has been shown to assist sufferers of emotional or traumatic events - such as the ending of relationships - in making sense of and coming to terms with the event. Despite this connection, few studies have explored how the completeness of the narratives contributes to positive outcomes. Building on research in both communication and psychology, we conceptualized a complete narrative as one that clearly and extensively (1) segmented the experience episodically/sequentially, (2) represented causes and consequences in the explained events, (3) developed characters relative to the story, (4) evoked and made sense of affect, (5) drew meaning from the events in the narrative, (6) provided a coherent narrative, and (7) attributed responsibility to the characters in the story. We collected and analyzed the break-up stories of 90 participants. We then rated the narratives to see if relationships exist between narrative completeness and adjustment to relationship dissolution as well as to the teller's role in the break-up and his or her current relationship status. In addition to the implementation of a new method for coding and analyzing narrative content, the results indicate that certain elements of completeness are more related to adjustment than are others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-307
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Volume20
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2003

Keywords

  • Adjustment
  • Break-up
  • Narrative
  • Relationship dissolution
  • Stories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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