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Associations Between Narrative Features and Resilience in Newly Emancipated Foster Youth

  • Author(s): Grey, Izabela Kate
  • Advisor(s): Yates, Tuppett M.
  • et al.
Abstract

ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION

Associations Between Narrative Features and Resilience in

Newly Emancipated Foster Youth

by

Izabela Kate Grey

Doctor of Philosophy, Graduate Program in Psychology

University of California, Riverside, June 2014

Dr. Tuppett M. Yates, Chairperson

This dissertation evaluated prospective relations between emancipated youth's narrative content (i.e., depicted themes of positive and negative affect) and coherence (i.e., organization) in a modified Five Minute Speech Sample (FMSS), which prompted youth to reflect on their experiences in foster care. Specific aims evaluated 1) unique and interactive associations of youth's narrative content and narrative coherence with psychosocial adjustment, 2) childhood correlates of youth's narrative content and coherence, and 3) mediating models wherein narrative features were expected to explain associations between childhood experiences and youth adjustment. Participants were 172 recently emancipated foster youth (66% female; Mage= 19.62 years, SD = 1.11; 34.1% Hispanic, 31.1% African American, 15.9% White European American, and 18.9% multiracial/other) who completed extensive face-to-face interviews as part of an ongoing study of youth's adaptation to aging out.

Both narrative content, particularly negative affect, and narrative coherence were related to age-salient adjustment. However, narrative content was more strongly related to emotional well-being (i.e., positive narrative content was associated with self-esteem and life satisfaction, and negative narrative content was related to internalizing and externalizing problems), whereas narrative coherence was more strongly related to relational outcomes (i.e., romantic and peer relationship quality, and peer attachment). Moderation analyses revealed unique associations of narrative content and coherence with varied outcomes, but the degree of narrative coherence did not significantly alter relations between narrative content and adjustment. Although narrative features were related to youth's childhood experiences (e.g., child maltreatment, child welfare experiences, and mentoring relationships), mediation analyses suggested only modest explanatory relations between these childhood experiences and later adjustment via narrative content and coherence with the strongest indirect paths evident through negative narrative content.

These findings support the utility of the FMSS as a brief narrative assessment tool. The results are discussed with particular attention to processes of narrative representation and meaning making as salient developmental influences in the wake of foster care, and in development broadly. Implications for future practice and policy aimed at supporting positive development among transition-aged foster youth are also discussed.

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