Family Narratives Lab

About the lab

Featured research (1)

In this study, we considered connections between the content of immediate trauma narratives and longitudinal trajectories of negative symptoms, to address questions about the timing and predictive value of collected trauma narratives. Participants (N = 68) who were admitted to the emergency department of a metropolitan hospital provided narrative recollections of the traumatic event that brought them into the hospital that day. Participants were then assessed at intervals over the next twelve months for depressive and posttraumatic symptom severity. Linguistic analysis identified words involving affect (positive and negative emotions), sensory input (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell), cognitive processing (thoughts, insights, and reasons), and temporal focus (past, present, and future) within the narrative content. In participants’ same-day narratives of the trauma, past-focused utterances predicted greater decreases in depressive symptom severity over the next year, d = -0.13, whereas cognitive process utterances predicted more severe posttraumatic symptom severity across time points, d = 0.32. Interaction analyses suggested that individuals who used fewer past-focused and more cognitive process utterances within their narratives tended to report more severe depressive and posttraumatic symptom severity across time, ds = 0.31 to 0.34. Overall, these findings suggest that, in addition to other demographics and baseline symptom severity, early narrative content can serve as an informative marker for longitudinal psychological symptoms, even before extensive narrative processing and phenomenological meaning-making have occurred.

Lab head

Robyn Fivush
  • Department of Psychology

Members (1)

Matthew E Graci
  • Emory University

Alumni (2)

Natalie Merrill
  • Emory University
Jordan Ashton Booker
  • University of Missouri