Fall 2008




Master of Arts (MA)

Primary Subject Area

Psychology, Cognitive; Sociology, Individual and Family Studies


narrative, cognitive dissonance, Labov, discipline, parental narrative, family communication


Parents are continually looking for correct and effective ways to discipline and instruct their children. Often, parents will tell a personal narrative beginning with “when I was your age” to demonstrate to their children the appropriate way to think and behave. This thesis asks three research questions: What are the common themes in parental narratives that young adults remember in relation to instruction or discipline? How does the narrative structure demonstrate narrative coherence and fidelity? What do young adults self-report about the impact of the parental narrative on their cognitive dissonance? Through a content analysis of eighty completed surveys by young adults, the most common themes were relationships, hard work/disciplined life, substance use, and driving. Half of the participants reported that the parental narratives made them feel uncomfortable about their behaviors or thoughts on the issues, and the majority reported that they changed their behavior or thinking after hearing their parents’ stories.