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Teens' Self Perception And Understanding of Past Memory Depends on Gender

Update Date: Sep 06, 2012 09:43 AM EDT

Adolescence is a crucial time that determines what kind of a personality a child is going to adopt when he/she grows into an adult.

According to a new study by psychologists from University of Missouri, the stories that young adults tell about themselves, reflect their self-perception and identity and may vary depending on their gender.

This knowledge, say researchers, can be used by parents to better understand their teens and may help them deal with the usually difficult transition from childhood to adulthood.

"Autobiographical stories tell us details about adolescent psychology that questionnaires and observations of behavior cannot," said Jennifer Bohanek, assistant professor of psychological sciences in the College of Arts and Science, according to Medical Xpress.

"Narratives provide information about how adolescents interpret memories as well as how they come to know themselves. Other people then come to know the teens by the stories they tell about themselves. The differences between study participants' stories suggest there may be differences in the ways male and female teens understand themselves and present themselves to the world."

The researchers found that the stories told by females were longer and rational in nature and also consisted of more details and descriptions about their emotional states.

However, the stories told by male participants were more matter-of-fact, showing less self-reflection.

The differences in the story telling remained consistent, regardless of whether or not the content was negative or positive.

According to researchers, it is the gender difference which makes women remember their past and also give it a personal meaning.

For the study, the researchers recruited 65 adolescents between the age of 13 and 16. The teenagers, who belonged to diverse economical and racial backgrounds, were asked to narrate two positive and two negative stories about themselves.

The stories told by the young adults were then analyzed by psychologists for consistency, theme, narrative development and self-reflection, the report said.

"Our study filled an important gap in the research on autobiographical narratives," said Bohanek.

"Previous studies looked at gender differences in children's and adults' storytelling," he continues. "Other research has found there are differences in the ways parents tell stories to male and female children as well as differences in how emotional content was explained. Other studies found that families talked about past events every five minutes on average, so reflecting on the past seems to have an important influence on family relationships. Our study suggests that these interactions may affect adolescents as they develop their own definition of themselves."

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