L.A. Stories: Aggression in Preschoolers' Spontaneous Narratives after the Riots of 1992


  • Gratitude is expressed to the participating preschool programs, the children, and their families and to the High/Scope Educational Foundation.

may be sent to J. M. Farver, Department of Psychology, SGM 501, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061.


64 inner-city preschoolers' spontaneous story narratives that were examined directly after the Los Angeles riots of 1992 were compared with narratives told by a matched comparison group of 128 children living in other U.S. cities who had no direct exposure to the riots. Narratives were coded for length, complexity, overall thematic content, character behavior in the stories, number of aggressive words, and story outcome. Children were given language and pre-academic skill assessments, their classroom behavior was observed, and teachers rated children's social competence. Results indicated that there were significant group differences in the story narratives. Children who were directly exposed to the riots told more narratives with aggressive thematic content, aggressive words, unfriendly figures who engaged in physical aggression, and mastery of situations with aggression than did the comparison group of children who had no direct exposure to the riots. The findings suggest that children's narratives reflected their exposure to the violence and their expression of that experience.