Narrative Engagement: The Importance of Assessing Individual Investment in Expressive Writing

Lindsey T. Roberts, Sherry Hamby, John Grych, Victoria Banyard. Narrative Engagement: The Importance of Assessing Individual Investment in Expressive Writing. American Journal of Social Sciences. Vol. 3, No. 4, 2015, pp. 96-103.


The positive benefits of narrative and expressive writing have been demonstrated in numerous experimental studies, but these experimental efforts have not focused on understanding authors’ perceptions of the writing experience. This study presents a new brief measure of narrative engagement that assesses authors’ investment and motivation for expressive writing. The Narrative Engagement Index was developed based on theory and an extensive review of participants’ reflections on a narrative-based writing intervention, and could be tailored to suit many written narrative exercises. For the present study, it was used to assess narrative engagement for the Laws of Life Essay program. Participants (n=717) were drawn from a rural, low-income Southern region, and a subset (n=55) were asked to bring “someone who knew them well” in order to provide reliability and validity data from a close informant. To our knowledge, it is the first study to include a close informant in the study of the correlates of narrative. Positive, significant correlations were found for measures of related constructs, including expressive writing items that are widely used in experimental studies of narrative, meaning making, and posttraumatic growth. Close informants perceived writers with higher levels of narrative engagement to have higher levels of current well-being than less engaged writers. The Narrative Engagement Index has good psychometric qualities and complements existing measures of narrative by assessing the author’s investment in the writing process.

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Health and writing: meaning-making processes in the narratives of parents of children with leukemia.

Qual Health Res. 2015 Mar;25(3):348-59. doi: 10.1177/1049732314551059. Epub 2014 Sep 22.

Freda MF1, Martino ML2.

There is literary evidence stating that expressive writing affects health outcomes. Nevertheless, the processes underlying its benefits remain unclear. In our previous article, we described the benefits of writing; in this article, we investigate the meaning-making processes underlying the traumatic experiences of parents of children with leukemia in off-therapy. We collected the writings of 23 parents and grouped them according to the parents’ psychological outcome (low/good/high) with respect to anxiety, as assessed during a follow-up. We qualitatively analyzed the texts written by parents with good psychological outcomes to highlight their main meaning-making processes, that is, how they put into words the shattering experience, reordered the events, connected their emotions and the events, reevaluated the event, and reconstructed the time process. We found that parents with low/high outcomes articulated these processes differently. Furthermore, we discussed the uses and functions of written narration for each group.