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.