Being Brave, Being Nice: Themes of Agency and Communion in Children’s Narratives



Although much is known about the presence of themes of agency and communion in adults’ autobiographical stories, little is known about the presence of these themes in children’s autobiographical stories. In this paper we examine the extent to which children describe themselves and others as agentic and communal beings in ordinary conversational narratives. Subjects were 96 rural, working-class children between the ages of 4 and 9 years. Personal narratives were elicited in the course of informal conversations with an adult experimenter. Narratives were analyzed for the presence of storyworld participants, and for the presence of themes of agency and communion. For both genders, themes of agency were more common than were themes of communion. Girls, however, were more likely to describe themes of communion than were boys, and were more likely to include family members in their narratives than were boys. Finally, correlations between themes of agency and communion were generally low. The findings extend the age to which the concepts of agency and communion can be productively applied to personal narratives. Implications for future theoretical and empirical work are also discussed.