A. McCabe, C. Peterson, & D.M. Connors (in press). Attachment security and narrative elaboration. International Journal of Behavioral Development


A key means of getting to know someone is revelation of one's personal experiences in personal narrative, an ability that shows considerable individual variation. Past research has documented a relationship between narration in conversations between children and their mothers and attachment security. However, children's narrative contributions are often scaffolded by mothers, as well as embedded within an ongoing conversation which may be structured differently by mothers among whom attachment quality differs. Here children's narration to an attentive, but nonscaffolding, stranger was investigated to see whether that, too, would correlate with security. Participants were 32 4-year-old children and their mothers. The security of children's attachment to their mother was assessed using the parent-reported Q-Sort and correlated with two measures of narrative ability. One was simple length in words of the three longest narratives told to a friendly stranger, and the other was a composite formed from specific scored narrative variables. Both narrative measures were significantly correlated with attachment security, even after partialling out the effects of gender, age, and receptive vocabulary. These results suggest that children have internalized the inclination to disclose themselves by means of relating narrative and have begun to generalize this to adults outside their family. The exchange of personal narration provides a means of examining children's internal working models of attachment, a conclusion with implications for future investigations of the structure of personal narrative.