Peterson and Biggs (1998), Stitches and Casts: Emotionality and Narrative Coherence


The narratives of children (2-13 years) who had experienced trauma injuries requiring hospital Emergency Room treatment were analyzed for coherence. Specifically, the degree to which the children embedded their accounts within both an orientative and evaluative context was assessed as well as whether they organized their narratives around high points. In addition, distress of the children at both time of injury and of treatment was rated on a 6-point scale by parents. There were qualitative as well as quantitative changes in the narratives of children at different ages. As well, the children who were more distressed produced less coherent accounts. While 9-13-year-olds who were most upset produced more orientative propositions, highly distressed 2-3-year-olds produced fewer, and all age groups produced fewer evaluative propositions as distress increased. It was proposed that this pattern of decreased evaluation resembled the affect flattening found in victims of posttraumatic stress syndrome. As well, the changes in coherence across the preschool years were discussed in terms of their possible contribution to the phenomenon of infantile amnesia.