Teens Make Up Different Stories About Themselves According to Gender


Teenagers come in two varieties: they are either tellers of colorful tall-tales about having, pssst, sex or doing other awesome things that will make people like them, or disarmingly honest truth-tellers who can’t abide bullshit and therefore make all the college-age cousins super-uncomfortable at family get togethers. The autobiographical narratives that teenagers weave about themselves, in short, are essential to understanding what kind of people those teens are gradually turning into, and it just so happens that those narratives are closely tied to gender.

Led by Jennifer Bohanek, researchers at the University of Missouri asked 65 kids firmly ensconced in adolescence (between the ages of 13 and 16) to narrate two positive and two negative stories. The participants came from economically and racially diverse backgrounds, and their narratives were later analyzed by research assistants who presumably got the job because they never had an intro to teaching composition class and didn’t know what the hell they were signing their souls over to. The results of these evaluations suggest that adolescent narratives vary according to gender, with girls telling more detailed, reflective, 19th century apex-of-the-novel-as-art-form stories, while boys tended to tell more matter-of-fact stories that showed significantly less self-reflection. Like Hemingway, as in, “We bought the eggs from the convenience store. The eggs were white, like our eyes. When we threw the eggs at the cars, they exploded, and were yellow, like our bellies.”

Researchers determined that adolescent girls, therefore, unlike their male counterparts, have a greater tendency to reflect on past experiences and graft personal meaning into past events. According to Bohanek, “Autobiographical stories tell us details about adolescent psychology that questionnaires and observations of behavior cannot.” Teenagers trying hard to carve out identities for themselves will do so through personal narratives, and the way those narratives are crafted tends to reveal a whole lot about how a particular teenager conceives of his or her identity.

Teens Tell Different Tales About Themselves Depending On Gender [Science Daily]

Image via Graça Victoria/Shutterstock.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin