Communication Studies, Department of


First Advisor

Jody Koenig Kellas

Date of this Version



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Communication Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Jody Koenig Kellas. Lincoln, Nebraska: July, 2018

Copyright © 2018 Sarah R. Petitte.


Using Communicated Narrative Sense-Making Theory (Koenig Kellas, 2018), this study tested how grandchildren’s perceptions of risk and knowledge about heart disease in the family, as well as relational satisfaction, changed over the course of 3 weeks as a result of engaging in a storytelling experiment. Participants included 17 grandchild participants who interviewed their grandparents to tell stories about family heart health or discuss everyday events based on random assignment into a treatment or comparison group. Additionally, participants completed measures surrounding their knowledge of heart disease, relational satisfaction with their grandparent, and their perception of risk to develop heart disease in their lifetime. Thematic analysis of the stories revealed three parts to the storytelling sequence: (a) the HD Family Tree, (b) the grandparent’s story and reaction, and (c) advice/lessons learned. Story themes included (a) confusion/shock, (b) acceptance of their health, and (c) disjointed reporting. Statistical analyses revealed trends for an increase in heart disease knowledge in the treatment group over time, as well as increased perceptions of dread risk over time, although relational satisfaction for grandchildren in their grandparent-grandchild relationship did not change over the 3 weeks. The results of this study provide a deeper look into how grandparents may help to socialize their grandchildren in this understudied family relationship, especially in regards to health. Moreover, these results also help to shed light on how CNSM’s proposition relating to intergenerational values, attitudes, and beliefs are communicated through retrospective stories about health and what living family members should be aware of for their own health moving forward.

Advisor: Jody Koenig Kellas