J Commun. 2011 Jun;61(3):432-464.
Despite much research on the beneficial effects of written disclosure, relatively little attention has been paid to specifying the mechanism underlying the effects. Building upon the two theoretical models (the cognitive adaptation model and the emotional exposure-habituation model), this research focused on two aspects of disclosure content—insights and emotions—and examined how women with breast cancer benefit from written disclosure in online support groups. Using survey data collected at baseline and after four months and messages posted in bulletin-board-type online groups in between, we analyzed how the content of disclosive messages predicted health outcomes. Disclosure of insights led to greater improvements in health self-efficacy, emotional well-being, and functional well-being, which was mediated by lowered breast cancer concerns. Disclosure of negative emotions did not have main effects on health outcomes; instead, it weakened the unfavorable association between concerns at baseline and functional well-being at follow-up. Our findings support both theoretical models, but in regard to different aspects of disclosure content.
To identify differential health benefits of written emotional disclosure (ED).
Pain-coping style and demographic characteristics were examined as potential moderators of ED treatment efficacy in a randomized controlled trial with female fibromyalgia patients.
Of three pain-coping styles, only patients classified as interpersonally distressed (ID) experienced significant treatment effects on psychological well-being, pain, and fatigue. Treatment effects on psychological well-being were also significantly greater for patients with a high level of education.
Patients with an ID-coping style and/or high education appear to benefit most from ED.
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.