Children's Fictional Narratives: Gender Differences in Storytelling
by Javanna Obregon
Children’s ideas about gender influence various aspects of their daily life such as the toys they play with, the clothes they wear, people they befriend, and interestingly the stories they tell, both personal and fictional. Despite the fact that middle childhood is a critical point in fictional narrative development, most research has explored children’s fictional narratives only during the early childhood years. This study seeks to address this gap in the current research by investigating the features, gender differences in the performance and content, and differences across narrative contexts in the fictional narratives told by eight- to eleven- year-old children. Twenty children, evenly divided by gender, were asked to recount the two best made up stories they have ever heard and produce a story using a wordless picture book. The stories were audio and videotaped and subsequently transcribed, the coded for: (1) narrative performance using Gilliam and Gilliam’s (2010) Tracking Narrative Language Progress schema and (2) theme using Propp’s Morphology of a Folktale (1968) and Quiller-Couch’s Narrative Conflicts (1929). Results indicate that during middle childhood, children are able to tell well-structured stories independently and make use of basic conflicts and characters. Girls and boys do not differ in terms of narrative performance. However, children use more complex language when they are provided with a wordless picture book. Interestingly, there were gender differences in narrative content. Results of the study will further our awareness of fictional narrative development and the gender differences during the critical period of middle childhood.