Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Western Journal of Communication 73:1 (January–March 2009), pp. 91–111.

doi: 10.1080/10570310802635021


Copyright © 2009 Western States Communication Association; published by Taylor & Francis/Routledge. Used by permission.


Narratives help people make sense of difficult experiences. In addition, stories provide insight into people’s conceptualizations of the world, including their understanding of their family relationships. Given these two functions of storytelling, the ways in which family members tell stories about difficult experiences together should reveal or reflect relational qualities. This project focused on how the family relational context relates to jointly enacted sense-making behaviors as families tell stories of shared difficult experiences. Findings indicate that interactional sense-making behaviors, in particular coherence and perspective-taking, predict important family relational qualities. This suggests that family qualities affect and are reflected in the likelihood that family members will engage in productive sense-making behaviors as a unit when talking about a shared difficult experience.