Family Stories and the Life Course: Across Time and Generations

Family Stories and the Life Course: Across Time and Generations

Family Stories and the Life Course: Across Time and Generations

Family Stories and the Life Course: Across Time and Generations


This book is an example of qualitative research in developmental psychology that studies how families perceive themselves and how they function through the use of family stories. This book will be of interest to family researchers, marriage/family therapists and anyone who works with or studies families.


This book tells the tale of recent psychological research and theory on family stories. Family stories are broadly defined as narrative accounts of personal experiences that have meaning to individuals and to the family as a whole. These chapters draw on work that focuses on the act of telling family stories, as well as the content and coherence of family narratives. The process of telling family stories is linked to central aspects of development, including language acquisition, affect regulation, and family interaction patterns. The messages inherent in these stories serve to socialize children into gender roles, reinforce moral lessons, consolidate identity, and connect generations. Thus the topic of this book extends across traditional developmental psychology, personality theory, and family studies.

Drawing broadly on the epigenetic framework for individual development articulated by Erik Erikson, as well as on conceptions of the family life cycle and the family as a dynamic system of interacting roles and relations, we bring together contemporary examples of psychological research on family stories and their implications for development and change at different points throughout the life course. The book is divided into sections that focus on family stories at different points in the life cycle, from early childhood, through adolescence and identity formation, young adulthood and the establishment of intimacy, midlife and parenting, and finally mature adulthood and its intergenerational meaning in the roles of partner and grandparent. During each of these periods of the life cycle, research focusing on individual development within an Eriksonian framework of ego strengths is highlighted.

The dynamic role of family stories is also featured here, with work exploring the links between storytelling, family process, intergenerational attachment, and development. We hope that our broad developmental focus can serve to integrate the exciting diversity of this work, and foster further questions and research into the emerging Weld of family narrative.

Researchers use family narratives in a range of different ways, and the book attempts to illustrate the diversity of these analytic and conceptual approaches. In early development, the research focus in much of the narrative work on the family has been on children's initial acquisition of narrative styles . . .

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