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Experimentally testing a narrative sense -making metaphor intervention: Facilitating communicative coping about social aggression with adolescent girls

Erin K Willer, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Social aggression, including behaviors such as gossip and friendship manipulation, can be damaging to girls' individual and relational well-being. As a result, the purpose of the present dissertation study was to test a narrative sense-making metaphor intervention with middle schools girls experiencing social aggression in order to facilitate communicative coping. Testing this intervention method is important given that social aggression is associated with negative mental health outcomes, as well as an unwillingness to forgive. The expressive writing paradigm (Pennebaker, 1997a) provided an empirical backdrop for the intervention given research that suggests that narratively processing stress is an effective means of coping with it. Additionally, the proposed intervention drew on other principles from narrative theorizing, in the fields of narrative psychology and therapy, including externalization (White & Epston, 1990) and redemptive framing (McAdams, Diamond, de St. Aubin, & Mansfield, 1997) in order to help middle school girls communicate about and cope with social aggression through art and metaphor. The present dissertation specifically tested the impact of engaging in three sense-making processes on well-being and forgiveness over a nine-week period. These processes included targets telling a story of an experience with social aggression, drawing and talking about an externalizing metaphor representing their feelings associated with the event, and drawing and talking about a redemption metaphor representing something positive that came out of the negative experience with social aggression. Forty girls from six middle schools participated in the intervention that took place once a week for three consecutive weeks and one time six weeks posttreatment. Analyses revealed some treatment effects on well-being, including significant decreases in mental health symptoms between Times 1 and 3 and decreases in negative affect between Times 1 and Times 2, 3, and 4. Participants did not report significant increases in forgiveness over the course of time. Implications of these findings in light of narrative theorizing are provided, as well as limitations and suggestions for future research.^

Subject Area

Education, Social Sciences

Recommended Citation

Willer, Erin K, "Experimentally testing a narrative sense -making metaphor intervention: Facilitating communicative coping about social aggression with adolescent girls" (2009). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3379032.