Narrative skills predict peer adjustment across elementary school years


The importance of peer adjustment in middle childhood coincides with developing social cognitive and discursive skills that include the ability to make personal narrative accounts. Authoring personal stories promotes attention to the sequence of events, the causal connections between events, the moral significance of what has happened, and the motives that drive human action: these skills may be critical for the establishment and maintenance of satisfying peer relationships during elementary school. This study extended previous research by considering whether narrative skills in written stories about peer interactions predicted peer adjustment. As part of an ongoing longitudinal study, 92 children wrote narratives about peer experiences and completed surveys on measures of peer adjustment for two school years. Cross-lagged panel models indicated that chronological and thematic coherence and reports of moral concerns in narratives in the first year of the study contributed to lower peer disliking in the subsequent academic year. Reports of motives in Year 1 narratives contributed to lower levels of loneliness and peer victimization in Year 2. Writing personal narratives that are coherent and attentive to moral concerns and motives may be especially beneficial for children who have difficulty connecting with peers. We discuss implications for classroom practices.

Publication Title

Social Development