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Children's narrative productions: A comparison of personal event and fictional stories

  • Marybeth S. Allen (a1), Marilyn K. Kertoy (a2), John C. Sherblom (a3) and John M. Pettit (a3)

Personal event narratives and fictional stories are narrative genres which emerge early and undergo further development throughout the preschool and early elementary school years. This study compares personal event and fictional narratives across two language-ability groups using episodic analysis. Thirty-six normal children (aged 4 to 8 years) were divided into high and low language-ability groups using Developmental Sentence Scoring (DSS). Three fictional stories and three personal event narratives were gathered from each subject and were scored for length in communication units, total types of structures found within the narrative, and structure of the whole narrative. Narrative genre differences significantly influenced narrative structure for both language-ability groups and narrative length for the high language-ability group. Personal events were told with more reactive sequences and complete episodes than fictional stories, while fictional stories were told with more action sequences and multiple-episode structures. Compared to the episodic story structure of fictional stories, where a prototypical ‘good” story is a multiple-episode structure, a reactive sequence and/or a single complete episode structure may be an alternate, involving mature narrative forms for relating personal events. These findings suggest that narrative structures for personal event narratives and fictional stories may follow different developmental paths. Finally, differences in productive language abilities contributed to the distinctions in narrative structure between fictional stories and personal event narratives. As compared to children in the low group, children in the high group told narratives with greater numbers of complete and multiple episodes, and their fictional stories were longer than their personal event narratives.

Corresponding author
Marybeth S. Allen, 114 Main Street, Orono, ME 04473
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Applied Psycholinguistics
  • ISSN: 0142-7164
  • EISSN: 1469-1817
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