Academic journal article Storytelling, Self, Society

Testing a Digital Storytelling Intervention to Reduce Stress in Adolescent Females

Academic journal article Storytelling, Self, Society

Testing a Digital Storytelling Intervention to Reduce Stress in Adolescent Females

Article excerpt

Jenny's Story

After three tumultuous years in middle school, Jenny finally began high school. Unfortunately, she found the same feelings surfaced that she had in middle school. She did not belong. She felt fat. In every class, she sat in the back corner, hoping not to be recognized or called upon. The homework was overwhelming. time was as she always sat alone, far from the supposedly happy happy students. At home, her parents were fighting, and her dad finally moved out to start a "replacement" family with his new girlfriend.

Jenny was given the opportunity to talk about all the things that made her feel stressed. She wrote down her feelings in story form and recorded her story into a computer. At our request, Jenny brought in pictures that metaphorically represented her feelings and chose a background song to play during her story, which was now digitalized. She burned her story to a DVD and took it to her father. They sat together side by side and watched the five minute-long digital story. When it ended, her father looked at her with tears in his eyes, placed his hand on her arm, and said, "I get it now." Jenny had never felt so validated, knowing that her father finally understood her feelings. Through this storytelling method, Jenny was able to tell her father a story in a third-person format, which she could not have told him in a face-to-face confrontation.

Jenny's story is not an isolated example of adolescent angst; unfortunately, it is a common phenomenon among those who share her age and gender (Byrne and Mazanov, "Sources"). The purpose of our research was to determine the efficacy of different types of storytelling in combatting feelings of stress, anxiety, anger, and depression experienced by adolescent females. Of specific interest are the different effects of oral and digital storytelling on girls just entering high school and those on the verge of graduating. This study gave ninth- and grade females opportunity to tell their stories, either orally or digitally (on computers). We used several instruments pre- and post-intervention to measure their feelings of stress, anxiety, anger, and depression, and we studied and analyzed the differences between the effects of oral and digital storytelling, as well as the differences across grade levels.

Adolescent Stressors

Stress is an inevitable reality of life. As a result, adolescents, who are typically exposed to high rates of stress, are prone to develop psychological challenges such as depression, anger, and anxiety (Grant et al.; Moksnes et al.; Murray, Byrne, and Rieger). Female adolescents experience and report greater stress than do their male counterparts, in part because they are greatly influenced by friends, social media, and societal expectations (Byrne and Mazanov, "Sources"; "Sources"; Zimmer-Gembeck and Skinner). Because many of these expectations are unrealistic, they cause high levels of stress for adolescent females (Pipher).

A major concern for adolescents is suicide, which is the third leading cause of death for adolescents in the United States, and the incidence increases yearly as children age (Pirrucello). Depression contributes to the increased risk of adolescent suicide, and females experience depression more often than males (Bhasin, Sharma, and Saini). While males complete suicide more often, adolescent females attempt suicide more frequently (Parker et al.), escalating the possibility of self-injury. Adolescent females also self-injure more frequently than males (Conterio and Lader; Madge et al.; Whitlock, Eckenrode, and Silverman; Wilkinson and Goodyer). If strides can be made to reduce adolescent stress, it might be possible to reduce self-injury and even suicidal attempts on the part of adolescent females. Because Goodman has had a good deal of experience working with adolescent females who self-injure by cutting, we have limited this particular study to adolescent females.

Home-based stressors that adolescents may face include poverty, abuse, and illness, as well as discord among parents, parents and children, and siblings (Parker et al. …

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