Purpose/Introduction: Narrative language skills are critical for effective social interactions and academic success. Consequently, narratives are regularly an aspect of assessment and intervention for children with communication impairments, supporting the need for information about typical development from children across cultures. Development of coherent personal narratives is associated with growth of both one’s individual identity and cultural identity which are linked to psychological well-being. The topics and contents of children’s personal stories can provide insight into cultural influences on what children consider important, how they interpret experiences, and their values and beliefs, which in turn contribute to their developing individual and cultural self-identity. The purpose of this study was to investigate the topics and content of personal narratives told by typically developing 10-year-old children from East Asian and Western English-speaking cultures. Methods: There were 20 children in each of three East Asian language groups – Mandarin, Cantonese, and Korean; and 62 children in the English-speaking groups (22 in the USA and 20 each in the Australian and New Zealand groups). In each group, half were boys and half were girls. Children responded to prompts from the Global TALES protocol to elicit personal narratives. All language samples were transcribed, translated, and coded for topic choices using qualitative content analysis in collaborative discussions by the four authors, who included an English-speaking author from the USA (C.E.W.), and three authors, who are native speakers of the three East Asian languages, Mandarin (K.-M.C.), Cantonese (A.M.-Y.W.), and Korean (J.P.L.). Results: Results on topics in stories from East Asian and Western English-speaking cultures are described in relation to literature on anthropology. English-speaking children and East Asian children in this study talked about similar topics in their personal narratives, but the frequency of these topics within their stories varied. Possible explanations for differences in story topics are discussed within a framework on cultural dimensions. Conclusion: Evaluation of the topics of children’s personal narratives provides insight into what is important to the children and the way they view their worlds. This information may inform clinical approaches to assessment and intervention with children with communication impairments, encouraging clinicians to go beyond analysis of language structure to consider multiple factors that influence communicative competence.

Narratives have a central place in the lives of humans. Around the world, stories are told to teach, to pass down traditions, to entertain, to explain where people have come from and where they are going, and to reflect on one’s own experiences and the experiences of others. Although storytelling is universal and stories share many similarities across cultures, they may vary in terms of their functions (the reasons they are told), their microstructure (in terms of vocabulary, morphology, and syntax), their discourse organization, and their topic, content, and theme.

A number of studies on English-speaking children have shown that children’s ability to comprehend and produce fictional narratives predicts later literacy and academic achievement [1‒6]. Similar relationships between telling fictional oral narratives and literacy have been reported for children speaking such diverse languages as Mandarin, Cantonese, and Spanish [7‒9]. The majority of research on children’s narrative development has focused on fictional narratives. Far fewer studies have been conducted on children’s development of narratives of their personal experiences, which were the object of investigation in the current study. Interest in children’s competence in personal narratives has increased as research is demonstrating that the ability to tell coherent personal narratives is associated with forming relationships and development of a positive self-identity, agency, and good mental health [10‒13]. By understanding cultural influences on children’s personal narratives and how these influences are reflected in their narratives, educators and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) may better assist children in developing coherent narratives.

Narrative Assessment

Evaluation of children’s narratives has focused on assessment of microstructures (vocabulary, morphology, and syntax) and macrostructures (discourse organization). Macrostructure analyses consider narrative components using either a story grammar [14] or high-point analysis system [15]. Story grammar analysis looks for the presence of components such as setting (time and place), characters, an initiating event or problem that sets off the action in the story, a response to that event (emotion or behavior), a plan to deal with a problem, the consequence of the plan, and a final resolution. Story grammar analysis has been used primarily with fictional stories which more likely follow that structural format than personal stories. High-point analysis has more often been used for personal narratives. The components of a high-point analysis include orientation, complicating actions, evaluations (statements that tell the listener what to think about a person, place, thing, event, or the entire experience), and resolution. Both story grammar and high-point analysis procedures have been applied to fictional and personal narratives from different cultures.

Findings indicate that there may be differences in the degree to which different narrative elements are included in the narratives of persons from different cultures [16‒19]. For example, Mahecha [14] observed that Spanish-speaking American children may emphasize settings and de-emphasize the sequence of events. Soter [18] reported that when asked to write a bedtime story for a younger child, students who spoke English, Arabic, and Vietnamese in sixth and eleventh grade in Australia focused on different parts of the stories. English students focused on the plot, producing a series of actions carried out by the characters. Vietnamese students produced a lengthy introductory description but provided few details of characters’ actions. Arabic writers emphasized detailed description of the settings for their stories. Tappe [19] analyzed the macrostructure of African folktales of the types familiar to South African and Malawian school-age children. Compared to Western story macrostructure, the macrostructure of the African stories demoted setting and characters’ internal responses and added traditional openings and closings. When 10- to 12-year-old South African and Malawian children told stories from a wordless picture book and several videos that had the classic Western story grammar elements, the macrostructures of their stories matched the macrostructure of traditional folktales more than the canonical Western story grammar macrostructure of the book and videos.

Considerable attention has been given to children’s development of narrative macrostructure in their stories, but very little research has explored development of topic and theme in children’s personal narratives, particularly in stories of single events. This is surprising considering the multiple cognitive and cultural influences on topic and theme development and the role of recognition of topic and theme in understanding behavior. Topic and theme are related but not identical constructs. A topic is explicit. It answers the questions of who, when, and why. A theme is an implicit message found in the story, a principle, or what one is to learn. The concepts of topic and theme appear primarily in research on development of coherence in life stories [20‒22]. Reese et al. [20] describe three dimensions of development of personal narrative coherence – context (time and place), chronology, and theme. Habermas and Bluck [20] and McAdams [21] describe four dimensions of life story coherence – cultural sense of biography (what to include in a personal narrative), temporality, causality, and theme. Habermas and Bluck [20] and McAdams [21] use the term thematic coherence to refer to the ability to connect disparate experiences together through underlying thematic connections. Reese et al. [22] used the term theme more broadly, incorporating the idea of topic. They observed that even preschool children can maintain a topic in a story.

Topics are precursors to themes (which do not fully develop until mid-late adolescence), and themes in personal stories are associated with self-identity and psychological well-being. An example of a topic of a narrative elicited from children with the Global TALES protocol has been peer relationship. The Global TALES personal narrative protocol is being used by an international collaboration of clinicians and researchers in communication disorders to investigate multiple aspects of children of personal narrative development in typically developing children and children with a variety of impairments or disorders (see protocol at https://osf.io/6ta5g). Examples of contentunder that topic have been arguing with a friend, helping a friend who has been bullied, playing a game with a friend. Over time, a theme, such as becoming a loyal friend,can evolve out of the peer relationship topic. A theme ties together several experiences in one’s life. Consequently, a story of a single event will not typically have a theme unless the event is a turning-point event.

Cultural Influences on Narrative Topics and Content

Research in three areas suggests sources for cultural variations in children’s personal narratives: caregiver-child reminiscing, content of children’s storybooks, and cultural philosophical.

Cultural Influences through Reminiscing

Children in many cultures learn how to tell stories of their personal experiences by reminiscing with family members about shared events, but the nature of this reminiscing varies [23, 24]. Culture infiltrates family reminiscing, and family reminiscing, in turn, instantiates culture. This is seen in reports on families from Western and Asian cultures. Many mainstream English-speaking families begin reminiscing with toddlers as soon as toddlers give an indication that they are remembering something that happened earlier [25]. Mullen and Yi [26] found that Euro-American mothers engaged in talk about past events with their 3-year-olds nearly three times as often as the Korean mothers. Furthermore, the Euro-American mothers made more references to their child’s thoughts and feelings than the Korean mothers, whereas the Korean mothers made more references to social norms than the Euro-American mothers. In a study of Korean and Canadian mothers, Choi found that Korean mothers, compared to Canadian mothers, less frequently encouraged their children to introduce their own topics, expecting their children to follow their leads. In contrast, the Canadian mothers more frequently encouraged their children to contribute their own ideas [27]. In reviewing studies on parental reminiscing, Wang [28] reported that caregivers in Western cultures typically gave voluminous descriptive information about experiences. They prompted their children to embellish their narratives and to focus on themselves and their feelings. In contrast, Chinese mothers were less elaborative, paying more attention to reminiscing about other people and relationships and to emphasizing proper behavior and maintaining harmony. Miller et al. [29] and Wang and Fivush [30] reported that Euro-American mothers integrated more emotion into their reminiscing and spent more reminiscing time trying to explain and resolve difficult emotions with their children than did Chinese mothers in Taiwan and Beijing. Koh and Wang [24] observed that when reminiscing, Chinese-American mothers were more likely than Euro-American mothers to mention negative emotions and to engage children in didactic talk as a way to teach children how to handle negative emotions.

The personal stories children tell reflect their experiences with reminiscing [28, 31, 32]. Wang and colleagues [28, 31, 32] reported that 6-year-old American children who experienced more elaborative reminiscing with their caregivers told stories of personal experiences that offered detailed descriptions of one or two events, with more references to themselves, and more evaluations of their experiences. They more frequently mentioned their own needs and preferences and acted independently of others in their stories than the Chinese children. In contrast, 6-year-old Chinese children who experienced less elaborative reminiscing with their caregivers produced personal stories with skeletal descriptions about multiple events. Furthermore, the Chinese children, who had heard more stories emphasizing proper behaviors and relationships with others, were more concerned with moral correctness and authority and conveyed a lesser sense of independence in their narratives. They made more didactic statements concerning social standards and moral rules, more frequently mentioned the protagonist child’s proper behavior and moral character, described more instances of reparation, and made more references to future behavior. Compared with American children, Chinese children included more authority figures in their narratives, described more instances of authority approval and award, more frequently mentioned authority disagreement and punishment, and ascribed more compliant behavior to the protagonist child.

Cultural Influences on Preferred Emotions

Emotions are central to the reasons for relating personal narratives in response to experienced events. Culture may influence the emotions associated with particular experiences and how they are expressed. Children may learn what to include in their personal stories through exposure to books [33, 34]. In several studies, Tsai and colleagues showed that East Asian (Hong Kong, Beijing, and Taiwanese) children and adults preferred low arousal emotions, while Americans preferred high arousal emotions [34‒36]. In one study [34], children were shown photos of children engaged in exciting activities (e.g., jumping and splashing in a swimming pool) or calm activities (e.g., sitting andfloating in an inner tube in a swimming pool) and asked to identify the child more like them. Chinese children chose more of the calm pictures; American children chose more of the excited pictures. When expressing positive emotions, East Asian adults are more comfortable being calm, relaxed, or peaceful; American adults are more likely to prefer showing enthusiasm, excitement, or elation. When expressing negative emotions, Americans are comfortable displaying anger, fear, and nervousness, whereas adults from East Asia are likely to feel uncomfortable expressing such high arousal emotions and are likely to be more comfortable exhibiting sadness, loneliness, and unhappiness [37]. Tsai and Clobert [37] report that these findings on preferred emotions are based on studies that have employed a variety of methods, for example, people have been asked to rate how they felt or preferred to feel in a variety of situations; they selected preferred activities from pictures based on the emotions the activities elicited; and they selected a preferred physician for themselves based on emotional expressiveness of the physician.

Both Ding et al. [33] and Tsai et al. [34] noted that these preferred emotions are reflected in the thematic content of bestselling children’s books. Tsai et al. [34] also noted that emotional expressions were more muted in Taiwanese children’s books, in contrast to animated emotional expressions in American children’s books. Ding et al. [33] observed a similar difference in emotional expression in children’s bestselling storybooks written by native Chinese and European-American writers, especially with regard to the type of emotional words, focal theme of emotional incidents, and attribution of emotions. Furthermore, in the American children’s books, there was greater prevalence of positive (vs. negative) emotions and negative powerful (vs. powerless) emotions. American storybooks were less likely than Chinese storybooks to present social themes (vs. personal themes) and attribute emotions to others (vs. self).

Cultural Frameworks for Topic/Content Narrative Differences

Tweed and Lehman [38] suggested that many Chinese stories are based on narratives derived from Confucian philosophy, which emphasizes virtuous activity in the service of social harmony and of cultivating a communal or collective self. On the other hand, stories from Western European culture are based on Socratic philosophy, which emphasizes individual questioning and the ability to evaluate and judge information and its attributes more strongly associated with an autonomous or independent self.

Documentation of philosophical differences between Eastern and Western cultures arose nearly simultaneously 2,500 years ago. Eastern cultures have historically been influenced by Confucian philosophy, whereas English-speaking cultures have been influenced by Socratic philosophy [39]. Table 1 displays values/beliefs associated with Confucian and Socratic thought. What one is expected to learn and know and how one is expected to learn and know differ in Confucian (primarily Eastern) and Socratic (primarily Western and English-speaking) cultures [39]. In Eastern cultures, learning and knowing are geared toward goals of perfecting oneself, becoming a better person morally and socially, and ultimately contributing to social harmony. In Western cultures, one is to develop personal creativity and know and master the external world to control it. Such learning can be used to serve human needs, but it is not the primary goal of learning. In Eastern cultures, students are to respect the authority of teachers; in Western cultures, students are encouraged to think for themselves, to raise questions about the subjects they are learning, and to challenge the existing knowledge as well as authority. Since Greek antiquity, there has been a strong view in the Western world that individuals differ in their potential at the outset. In Eastern cultures, no such assumption is made; through learning and hard work, one becomes smarter and better. From their earliest years, children from Eastern cultures are encouraged and instructed in this view of learning. In the West, academic success is based on who you are, whereas in the East, it is based on what one does.

Table 1.

Comparison of Confucian and Socratic educational philosophy

Confucian philosophySocratic philosophy
• Purpose of education to achieve social harmony • Purpose of education to develop critical thinking 
• Human ability malleable; academic success achieved through hard work • Academic success more influenced by innate ability than effort 
• Respect authority • Question authority; student opinion valued 
• Education is teacher-centered • Education more student-centered 
• Joy comes from reaching educational goals • Learning itself should be enjoyable 
Confucian philosophySocratic philosophy
• Purpose of education to achieve social harmony • Purpose of education to develop critical thinking 
• Human ability malleable; academic success achieved through hard work • Academic success more influenced by innate ability than effort 
• Respect authority • Question authority; student opinion valued 
• Education is teacher-centered • Education more student-centered 
• Joy comes from reaching educational goals • Learning itself should be enjoyable 

Anthropological frameworks have also represented a variety of dimensions along which cultures can vary. These dimensions intertwine with Confucian and Socratic philosophies to provide an additional perspective on the reason why there are topic and content variations in the stories told by East Asian and Western English-speaking children. The best known of these frameworks is that proposed by Hofstede [40‒43] who used factor analysis to examine the results of a worldwide survey of IBM employees’ values in 53 countries. Three of the four dimensions Hofstede first identified are most relevant to this study.

  • Individualism versus collectivism (or independent vs. interdependent). Persons in individualistic (independent) cultures prefer a loosely knit social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of only themselves and their immediate families. Its opposite, collectivism, represents a preference for a tightly knit (interdependent) framework in society in which individuals can expect their relatives or members of a particular in-group to look after them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty.

  • Power distance refers to the degree to which persons accept that power is distributed unequally. High power distance cultures accept a hierarchical order in which everybody has a place and which needs no further justification. Inequality is accepted, with everyone having a rightful place in a hierarchy that reflects the inequality. Persons in authority and elders are respected, their instructions followed, and their guidance sought. In low power distance cultures, people value equality and strive to equalize the distribution of power and feel less dependence on elders and those in authority.

  • Uncertainty avoidance involves the degree to which members of a society feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. Cultures high in uncertainty avoidance have a great need for formal rules and a low tolerance for groups that behave differently. Low uncertainty avoidance cultures are comfortable with uncertainty. They are typically more tolerant of risk taking, more open to change, and do not rely as heavily on rules for managing situations.

Using Hofstede’s [43] system, each dimension is scored on a 0–100 point scale. Scores are based on how persons in a country responded to specific questions (which loaded on the particular factors), and how many persons in each cultural group responded in those ways. Scores below 50 are interpreted as indicating the culture is relatively low on that scale, and scores over 50 indicate the culture is high on that scale. In the case of the individualism dimension, cultures with scores under 50 are considered collective, and cultures with scores over 50 are considered individualistic. Data from at least 112 countries are available on Hofstede’s website (www.hofstede-insights.com/country-comparison/).

Hofstede [43] refers to these dimensions as reflections of national cultures not as individual personality traits. Although there will be variability in the degree to which individual persons in a culture ascribe to these dimensional values, persons who have been brought up in a particular national culture tend to share certain expectations of how things should be done and the values around those expectations. As a result of environmental experiences, these expectations are usually completely formed by 12–14 years of age. Children in this current study are 10-year-olds who would have become familiar with many, but not all, of the expectations of their culture.

Study Purpose

The majority of studies on children’s personal narrative development have focused on development of linguistic microstructures (vocabulary, syntax) and discourse organization (story grammar or high-point elements). Minimal attention has been given to children’s development of topic, content, and theme. Furthermore, researchers typically have analyzed the narratives produced by the children without considering cultural, personal, or environmental factors that may have contributed to the children’s stories. Applying the International Classification of Functioning [44], most analysis techniques have been at the activity level – that is, assessment of the story without considering any personal or environmental contextual factors that might influence the structure, topic, and content of the stories. In the current study, we examined children’s personal narratives by considering the influence of context. By analyzing the story topics and content, we hoped to explore possible influences of contextual factors such as cultural values, beliefs, and ideologies that may influence the content of children’s stories.

The approach to data analysis in this study used a form of inductive qualitative content analysis. This collaborative qualitative approach was intended to foster insight into potential influences of culture on story topics and content. The coauthors of this article are from four different cultural-linguistic groups – Cantonese-speaking (A.M.-Y.W.), Korean-speaking (J.P.L.), Mandarin-speaking (K.-M.C.), and US English-speaking (C.E.W.); all researchers also speak English. The four researchers collaborated in data analysis of children’s narratives from six cultural groups, generating, discussing, and explaining the rationale for their codes among one another. This methodology facilitated development and interpretation of codes that could be more accurate for a culture and better interpreted across cultures.

In a globalized world, it is essential that SLPs employ culturally responsive practices [45]. To be culturally responsive, SLPs must acquire a global perspective to address communication development and disorders on a social level. Culturally and globally responsive practices require a broader conceptualization of “social” in order to achieve a more holistic understanding of the cultural and sociohistorical processes that may affect the lives of children and families from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and hence what they talk about in their personal narratives. Considering the content of children’s personal stories, therefore, provides SLPs with ideas regarding the focus and content of their interventions.

We employed a collaborative approach to inductive content analysis of children’s personal narratives to meet the following aims:

  • explore the topics and content that children from three English-speaking cultures and three East Asian cultures included in their personal narratives, and

  • offer explanations for the ways that cultural values and beliefs might influence story topics and content.

Participants

The data for this project are part of the larger Global TALES (Talking about Lived Experiences in Stories) Project being conducted by members of the Child Language Committee of the International Association of Communication Sciences and Disorders (IALP) [46]. Members of the Global TALES consortium are collecting personal narrative language samples from typically developing 10-year-olds in a number of countries around the world to evaluate the possibility of employing a narrative elicitation protocol and narrative assessment strategies that can be used across cultures and languages to document children’s narrative skills. Initial feasibility of the protocol was reported in Westerveld et al. [46].

Ten boys and 10 girls from each of three East Asian areas (Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) and from each of three English-speaking countries (Australia, New Zealand, USA) participated in the project. The participants from Australia, New Zealand, and the USA were part of the initial Global TALES study; the Korean and Cantonese children were new to this study. Inclusionary criteria included (1) 10 years of age; (2) typically developing, no history of learning or speech and language difficulties; (3) currently not receiving specialized services such as speech-language therapy; and (4) parents of middle socioeconomic status. Ten-year-old children were the selected participants for several reasons. They are at a critical stage of development. They are transitioning from learning to read to reading to learn. Fourth or fifth grade 10-year-old students around the world participate in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). By this age, the majority of typically developing children can tell personal and fictional stories that include all the structural components employed in a story grammar or high-point analysis [15]. They can tell a temporally coherent personal narrative of a single event or experience.

Task

The examiners employed the Global TALES protocol version 1 (see https://osf.io/ztqg6/) to elicit personal stories. All examiners were qualified SLPs or speech-language pathology students under supervision. The East Asian samples were elicited by the coauthors of this paper who are native speakers of the children’s languages. These coauthors translated the protocol into Cantonese, Korean, and Mandarin. When translating the protocol, the researchers sought to ensure that the children were given the same instructions, protocol prompts, and scripted follow-up prompts as the original protocol. Due to the locations of the children and evaluators, the Korean and Cantonese samples were collected via Zoom; the other four samples were collected in face-to-face interactions in a quiet location, either at the child’s school, a university speech and language clinic, in the child’s home, or at a community site of the parent’s preference. To reduce cultural bias, children were asked to tell stories of personal experiences in response to six verbal prompts with no visual support. For each prompt, children were asked to tell a story about a specific time something like that had happened to them: a time when the child had felt excited, proud, worried/confused, angry/annoyed, experienced a problem they had fixed, and when something very important happened. If the child appeared to have difficulty listening to the prompt or had not responded after 10 s, the researcher gave a reminder or a scripted follow-up prompt. If the child provided only one or two sentences, the researcher asked: “Can you tell me more?”, “I want to learn more about your story.”, “What else can you tell me?”, “Can you explain what you mean?” The researchers did not ask specific questions but rather used only prompts to encourage children to continue talking, for example, “Wow!”, “That’s very interesting!”, “Mmm” without probing for specific content. Responses to all prompts were recorded for transcription and analysis purposes.

Analysis Procedures

For this project, responses were analyzed for four prompts: happy/excited, worried/confused, annoyed/angry, and problem. Although the Global TALES protocol includes six different prompts, our research team analyzed only four. We eliminated the data from the “proud” prompt because of extensive missing responses for the US cohort due to previously reported examiner error [46], and we eliminated the data from the “important” prompt due to time constraints and preliminary analysis that revealed it to add little new information to the four already analyzed. The narrative samples were transcribed verbatim by the principal investigator or research assistants in each country or area. The Cantonese, Korean, and Mandarin-speaking researchers were native speakers of these languages and all fluent English speakers. All Korean and Mandarin samples were also translated into English. Because of time constraints, only responses to the Cantonese problem prompt were translated into English. The English translations were used by the US researcher to enable conversations with the East Asian researchers about the stories during coding sessions. Final coding decisions were based on the transcriptions of the children’s narratives in their native languages. All stories by English-speaking children were coded by the US researcher. The stories for the US problem prompt were discussed with and coded by the three researchers who are native speakers of the three East Asian languages.

Some of the samples in this study had been coded for topics previously. As reported by Westerveld et al. [46], the topics of the English-speaking and Mandarin-speaking children’s stories had been coded in the Global TALES feasibility study by either the country-based researchers and/or a research assistant. Four of authors on the Global TALEs paper, including the US researcher on this paper, then created collapsed topic categories. Those codes were not used for this article for several reasons. As part of the qualitative analysis process, the current research team recognized that one’s culture will influence how one develops and explains topic codes. The same code word may have different interpretations and associations across cultures. From the feasibility study, we could not know the degree to which researchers were using the same code words to refer to the same ideas. Because our goal was to compare topics across cultures in this article, we had to ensure that the four authors of this article were employing and interpreting topic codes as consistently as possible across all six sets of stories. To achieve this level of cultural informing, plus coding consistency, the US researcher worked with the other three researchers in coding all six narrative sets. This included training on coding procedures, coding of all English stories, joint coding of the problem prompt US stories with all three coauthors, joint coding of all stories in their language groups with the Mandarin and Korean-speaking researchers, and joint coding of the problem prompt story with the Cantonese-speaking researcher. Coding sessions were done over Zoom. Several coding sessions were done individually with the Mandarin and Korean-speaking researchers to code all their data, and two sessions were conducted with the Cantonese-speaking researcher to discuss coding procedures and then to specifically discuss coding for the problem prompt. Two Zoom sessions included all three researchers of the East Asian languages, comparing and contrasting their experiences with their data. Considerable discussion was devoted to explaining cultural aspects of the experiences that were unfamiliar to the US researcher. At times, the researchers from East Asia were unaware of the cultural issues until the US researcher questioned some aspect of a story.

An inductive content analysis approach was used for identifying the narrative topics [47, 48]. Inductive content analysis is a qualitative research methodology used to analyze and interpret the content of text. An inductive approach does not assume preconceived categories or theories; the categories arise from reading of the data. Although the US researcher was aware of the codes from the feasibility study, the other authors of this paper were not given this code list, so they would not attempt to fit stories to predetermined codes; neither did the US researcher refer to the code list when coding the stories. Before coding, researchers read through all the stories produced by their language group in response to a prompt. The stories produced by each child were coded for topic and content. The team used the definition of “topic” aswhat was discussed – the who and what in the stories and sometimes the why described in a single word or short phrase. The team used the definition for “narrative content” as a summary of specific actions, thoughts, or feelings in the story. In an inductive content analysis, codes emerge from the data using a process called open coding; codes are not predetermined so as not to force stories into topics that may not be the best cultural fit for a story. These initial open codes were then put into code categories. For example, open codes might be broken arm, sister in hospital, mom in car accident – which would be content codes. These content codes were then categorized in a topic code, such as medical/injury.

The researchers made constant comparisons among the codes assigned to stories in response to a single prompt as well as across prompts and across stories of children from the different language/cultural backgrounds. Over Zoom meetings, researchers discussed the coding process, coded their stories independently, but also coded stories jointly with one or more of the other researchers. Joint coding provided opportunities to note instances in which the culture of the researcher might influence the selected topic code for a story. For example, in a story in response to the problem prompt, the US researcher focused on the problem discussed, coding the topic as school difficulty, whereas the Cantonese researcher focused on the child’s response to the problem and coded the topic as self-direction. In Zoom discussions, the researchers worked to achieve agreement on the use of definitions of topic categories. If the US and East Asian researchers’ interpretation of a narrative differed, the possible reasons for this difference were discussed. The interpretation of the native language researcher was given preference for the code.

Study results are discussed in terms of the narrative topics and content for each of the four prompts told by the East Asian and English-speaking children. Table 2 presents the topic categories for each prompt, examples of content in the category, and frequency of the topic categories for each group of children for each prompt.

Table 2.

Frequency of topic codes by country for the four protocol prompts

Story probeTopicExamplesFrequency by country
KRTWHKAUNZUSTOT
Happy/excited Peer/sibling relationship Sleeping over at friend’s house; new baby sibling; playing computer games with friends 15 
Birthday party Unicorn theme; games played; places went to with friends  17 
Vacation/trip Family trips/vacations; visiting relatives; amusement park; to celebrate achievement 11 42 
Getting item Pets; gifts; new glasses; winning lottery 26 
Personal achievement Joining ukulele club; competing in gym meet; made cross country team; first prize for speech; scoring in rugby; 100% on exams; jump rope record 19 
Other Ice skating with mom; not having to do something did not want to do; wish came true    
Worried/confused Fearful situation Going down slide; mom late for pickup; dad did not pick up; talking in front of people; being chased by unknown person; alone in storm  10 
Academic difficulty/concern/sports concern Cannot do problem; stressed about writing essay; confusing math task; do not know meaning of spelling word; did not understand book; getting homework done; remembering martial arts move 10 40 
Injury/medical/sick/danger Cut thumb; broken wrist; sister in hospital; getting blood tests; having surgery 17 
Not knowing how to do, what to do (not academic) Where to be and what to do because do not have necessary information; what to do in game; what someone was saying   17 
Moving Flood; divorce; packing; concern about making friends    
Getting lost/losing something/locked in room Self or sibling lost   
Peer/sibling/parent relationship Peers fighting – who is telling truth; feeling alone, peers do not help; parents fighting  14 
Pet sick/died/lost Bird flew away; dog died   
Technical problem Cannot get technology to work     
Other Teacher’s perception of her; sister broke vase, worried mom would scold       
Annoyed/angry Irritating behaviors Snoring; making noise; whining; playing music repetitively  13 
Inappropriate physical behaviors Throwing items; pulling hair; being awakened  11 
Physical aggression Physical fights; being hit, pushed  10 
Arguments Disagreements, sometimes silly     
Destructive behaviors/stealing Breaking items; stealing  15 
Bullied/bossed/teased/mean treatment/criticizing Verbal bullying; made fun of; told not performing well   11 
Lying/cheating/tricking Being lied to, cheated, tricked   
 Not following rules; not listening; not sharing Not following school or game rules; not taking turns     
Violated space Sibling taking over room     
Adult decision/unfair treatment by adult Ref makes wrong decision; adults makes kids get rid of pet; dad changes mind of younger child going on trip; banned from computer  11 
Self-evaluation Disappointed with performance    
Social exclusion; feels ignored Being left out; feels ignored by dad   
Blamed Blamed for something child did not do  
Technology failure TV not working; lost work on computer     
Animal behavior Pet running away; pet picking on other pets    
Pressured Made to do something did not want to do     
Overwhelmed with task Homework; too many things to do; not understanding    
Other Getting told on; losing a game; personal injury; could not convince uncle   
Problem Peer relationship Negative relationships: fighting; friend hates her friend; friend does not want to play; being ignored; team not playing well together; bullying. Positive relationships: make friend who tripped laugh; make friend feel better who was left out; help with homework; help learn to skate 11 12 41 
Sibling relationship Negative relationships: brothers fighting; fight over computer use; quarrel over towel. Positive relationships: help sister with writing story; help brother fix something  10 
Accident/injury Knocked friend off computer game; got stitches; made mess    
Damaged something Friend’s garage door; broke cup; broke charger; sister’s dress   
Broken item/fixing/making something Broken Xbox-bought new one; fixed projector, toy; making slime   
Academic problem Confused about math; hard essay assignment; not ready for exam; want to be in top 5 10 25 
Family relationship Moved away from grandpa; argues with mom; sister-mom fighting; help dad deal with pain  
Lost something Expensive item, found it; lost shoes, thinks someone took   
Dealing with pets Dogs fighting, got in garage      
Personal growth/self-improvement Coping with being angry; losing weight     
Not being responsible; Not doing required tasks Not having required school materials – pens, book, tablet, backpack; did not do chores    
Fear Heights, driving in mountains      
Other learning Swimming, piano      
Story probeTopicExamplesFrequency by country
KRTWHKAUNZUSTOT
Happy/excited Peer/sibling relationship Sleeping over at friend’s house; new baby sibling; playing computer games with friends 15 
Birthday party Unicorn theme; games played; places went to with friends  17 
Vacation/trip Family trips/vacations; visiting relatives; amusement park; to celebrate achievement 11 42 
Getting item Pets; gifts; new glasses; winning lottery 26 
Personal achievement Joining ukulele club; competing in gym meet; made cross country team; first prize for speech; scoring in rugby; 100% on exams; jump rope record 19 
Other Ice skating with mom; not having to do something did not want to do; wish came true    
Worried/confused Fearful situation Going down slide; mom late for pickup; dad did not pick up; talking in front of people; being chased by unknown person; alone in storm  10 
Academic difficulty/concern/sports concern Cannot do problem; stressed about writing essay; confusing math task; do not know meaning of spelling word; did not understand book; getting homework done; remembering martial arts move 10 40 
Injury/medical/sick/danger Cut thumb; broken wrist; sister in hospital; getting blood tests; having surgery 17 
Not knowing how to do, what to do (not academic) Where to be and what to do because do not have necessary information; what to do in game; what someone was saying   17 
Moving Flood; divorce; packing; concern about making friends    
Getting lost/losing something/locked in room Self or sibling lost   
Peer/sibling/parent relationship Peers fighting – who is telling truth; feeling alone, peers do not help; parents fighting  14 
Pet sick/died/lost Bird flew away; dog died   
Technical problem Cannot get technology to work     
Other Teacher’s perception of her; sister broke vase, worried mom would scold       
Annoyed/angry Irritating behaviors Snoring; making noise; whining; playing music repetitively  13 
Inappropriate physical behaviors Throwing items; pulling hair; being awakened  11 
Physical aggression Physical fights; being hit, pushed  10 
Arguments Disagreements, sometimes silly     
Destructive behaviors/stealing Breaking items; stealing  15 
Bullied/bossed/teased/mean treatment/criticizing Verbal bullying; made fun of; told not performing well   11 
Lying/cheating/tricking Being lied to, cheated, tricked   
 Not following rules; not listening; not sharing Not following school or game rules; not taking turns     
Violated space Sibling taking over room     
Adult decision/unfair treatment by adult Ref makes wrong decision; adults makes kids get rid of pet; dad changes mind of younger child going on trip; banned from computer  11 
Self-evaluation Disappointed with performance    
Social exclusion; feels ignored Being left out; feels ignored by dad   
Blamed Blamed for something child did not do  
Technology failure TV not working; lost work on computer     
Animal behavior Pet running away; pet picking on other pets    
Pressured Made to do something did not want to do     
Overwhelmed with task Homework; too many things to do; not understanding    
Other Getting told on; losing a game; personal injury; could not convince uncle   
Problem Peer relationship Negative relationships: fighting; friend hates her friend; friend does not want to play; being ignored; team not playing well together; bullying. Positive relationships: make friend who tripped laugh; make friend feel better who was left out; help with homework; help learn to skate 11 12 41 
Sibling relationship Negative relationships: brothers fighting; fight over computer use; quarrel over towel. Positive relationships: help sister with writing story; help brother fix something  10 
Accident/injury Knocked friend off computer game; got stitches; made mess    
Damaged something Friend’s garage door; broke cup; broke charger; sister’s dress   
Broken item/fixing/making something Broken Xbox-bought new one; fixed projector, toy; making slime   
Academic problem Confused about math; hard essay assignment; not ready for exam; want to be in top 5 10 25 
Family relationship Moved away from grandpa; argues with mom; sister-mom fighting; help dad deal with pain  
Lost something Expensive item, found it; lost shoes, thinks someone took   
Dealing with pets Dogs fighting, got in garage      
Personal growth/self-improvement Coping with being angry; losing weight     
Not being responsible; Not doing required tasks Not having required school materials – pens, book, tablet, backpack; did not do chores    
Fear Heights, driving in mountains      
Other learning Swimming, piano      

Happy/Excited Prompt

Five topics appeared in the majority of the stories elicited with the happy/excited prompt. Family vacations or trips was the most frequent topic of the happy/excited stories (42 total: 34%; East Asian: 16–27%; English-speaking: 26–42%), followed by receiving gifts, getting a pet, or getting a desired item (26 total: 21%; East Asian: 16–26%; English-speaking: 10–16%) and personal achievement (19 total: 15.5%; East Asian 12–20%; English-speaking 7–11%). Personal achievements included scoring high on an exam, making a team, successfully competing in a gym meet, receiving first prize in a competition, scoring in a game. While the majority of the personal achievement stories were about athletic performance; four of the East Asian narratives and one of the English narratives mentioned an academic achievement. A birthday party was mentioned by all three groups of the English-speaking children (14 times), but only by 3 children in two of the East Asian language groups.

Worried/Confused Prompt

Nine topics emerged for the worried/confused prompt. Children reported most frequently being worried about academic concerns or difficulty or concern regarding sports performance. Forty (33%) of the stories were on this topic. This topic category was more frequent for the East Asian children’s stories compared to the English-speaking children’s stories (25 vs. 15; 42% vs. 24%). The next most frequent topics weremedical/injury/sickness and not knowing what to do or how to do something(28%; both 17 instances). The medical topic was used equally by the Asian and English-speaking children. The not knowing topic was used by 16 of the English-speaking children and one Mandarin-speaking child. This difference may have been related to issues in translating the word confused in the prompt or the children’s familiarity with the scripted follow-up prompt (a time when they moved house) that was provided if they did not respond with a story about being worried or confused.

Annoyed/Angry Prompt

The annoyed/angry prompt yielded 17 codes plus several open codes that applied to only a single story. The greatest number of stories from both the English-speaking and East Asian children referred to irritating behaviors, inappropriate behaviors, and fights (33 stories total 27%). The English-speaking children were a little more likely than the East Asian children to report being irritated by behaviors of others (11 vs. 2 stories; e.g., snoring, making weird noises, whining, playing music repetitively). East Asian children were a little more likely to report being annoyed or angry by experiencing verbal bullying/criticism, being lied to, cheated, and tricked than English-speaking children (14 vs. 5 stories). Eleven of the stories dealt with what the children considered unfair treatment or poor decisions by adults (7 East Asian; 3 English-speaking). Eight stories dealt with children feeling blamed for something they had not done (6 East Asian; 2 English-speaking). In 5 of the Asian children’s blame stories, teachers and parents were doing the blaming; in the two English stories, peers were doing the blaming. Hence, East Asian children were reporting more annoyance with adult behaviors toward them than English-speaking children (12 East Asian vs. 3 English-speaking).

Problem Prompt

Peer relationship was the most frequent category topic code for the problem prompt, with a notable difference between the East Asian and English-speaking children. This was the topic of 30 (48%) of the English-speaking children’s stories and 11 (18%) of the East Asian children’s stories. The content of the peer relationship stories, as well as the frequency of this story topic, also differed between the East Asian and English-speaking children. Six of the 11 (54%) peer relationship stories told by East Asian children reported an incident in which they helped another child because the child had a problem (e.g., helping a child learn a skill or master a task). In contrast, only 8 of the 30 (27%) peer relationship stories of English-speaking children reported assisting or comforting another child; 22 of their stories reported conflicts with peers (e.g., fighting, arguing, lack of cooperation, kids throwing materials; being ignored). In the majority of the peer relationship stories, the English-speaking children were attempting to resolve conflicts by negotiating, compromising, or apologizing.

The second most frequent topic was academic problem/academic achievement (25 instances), used 20 times (33%) by East Asian children and 5 times (8%) by English-speaking children (one of these was a sibling’s academic problem, not the storyteller’s problem). A related topic was not having expected materials for class (5 for East Asian children; 1 for English-speaking children). Academic problem/achievements included exam performance, preparing for oral competitions, going to cram classes, working hard to understand difficult academic tasks, getting help understand or do homework. School responsibilities included not having a required tool (pencil, calligraphy pen, textbook), a backpack, or a broken tablet.

There appeared to be some differences in how the English-speaking and Asian children solved their problems. Fifteen of the East Asian children (25%) sought or received assistance in dealing with the problem, twice from a peer and 13 times from an adult (a teacher parent). Only three of the English-speaking children (4%) sought or received assistance.

Similarities and Differences in Story Topics

In general, the topics of the children’s stories in this study are reflective of reports about narrative differences in the fictional and personal stories told by children from Eastern and Western cultures [32] and in the ways parents in Eastern and Western cultures reminisce with their children [24, 28, 31]. Many topics appeared in the stories of children from all cultures, but some topics and contents were more frequent in one cultural group than the other. Across all prompts, East Asian children told more stories about academic and sports concerns and achievements and not having expected materials for school than English-speaking children (62; 51% vs. 27; 22%, respectively). In response to the problem prompt, English-speaking students told more stories of peer relationships (30; 51%) than East Asian children (11; 18%); and in their peer relationship stories, a higher percentage of Asian students reported helping children (54% of their stories) than English-speaking children (27% of their stories). When dealing with problems, East Asian children were more likely than English-speaking children to receive or seek assistance from others (15 instances vs. 3 instances).

Influence of Cultural Dimensions on Narrative Topics and Content

Although the Hofstede dimensions were based on questionnaire responses of over 100,000 employees in 53 countries, the study was based on Western social science theories. A group of researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong called the Chinese Culture Connection [49] questioned if the dimensions were culture-bound. They developed and administered a questionnaire based on Chinese concerns and values to Chinese participants in each of 22 countries. The dimensions arising from this study correlated highly with Hofstede’s dimensions, indicating that Hofstede’s dimensions were indeed generalizable. An additional dimension arose from their study that they referred to as “work dynamism,” based on Confucian values. That is, cultures with high Confucian work dynamism place importance on persistence/perseverance, ordering relationships by status and observing this order, thrift, and having a sense of shame. They reported areas high in Confucian work dynamism as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. English-speaking countries, conversely, are low on this dimension. Hofstede added the concept of work dynamism to his dimensions, referring to it as long-term – short-term orientation [41]. Figure 1 shows the Hofstede’s cultural dimension scores for the six cultural groups represented in this study (values for the cultural dimensions are available on the Hofstede Insights website: www.hofstede-insights.com/country-comparison/).

Fig. 1.

Hofstede’s cultural dimension scores for 6 participant groups.

Fig. 1.

Hofstede’s cultural dimension scores for 6 participant groups.

Close modal

As noted previously, persons in Asian cultures influenced by Confucian values are likely to be collective, accept high power distance, have strong work dynamism (long-term orientation), and have high uncertainty avoidance. In contrast, persons in Western cultures are likely to be individualistic, value low power distance, have low work dynamism, and low uncertainty avoidance. The Confucian work dynamism dimension, which is very high in Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, could explain the high frequency of stories related to academic and athletic concerns and achievements in all three East Asian groups. Associated with work dynamism and potential shame for not working hard is the Confucian belief that human ability is malleable and academic success can be achieved through hard work. Li [39] in her book, Cultural Foundations of Learning, specifically describes East Asian students persevering as they struggle in responding to the challenges of learning. The work dynamism dimension is typically low in Western cultures (e.g., English-speaking cultures), and there is the attitude that academic success is more influenced by innate abilities than effort. Academic challenges, therefore, do not have the same importance for English-speaking and East Asian children. Considering the importance given to learning in Eastern cultures and the emphasis on working hard and struggling on learning, it is not surprising that many East Asian children focused on learning struggles when asked to discuss a problem or what worried them [39].

High uncertainty avoidance is also associated with students’ academic orientations [50]. Both Korean and Taiwan cultures have very high uncertainty avoidance. In high uncertainty cultures, students seek the right answers and associate their achievements with effort. Striving and success in the education path enable persons to avoid uncertainty in adult life. Doing well in elementary and high schools ensures entrance to good universities, and graduation from prestigious universities guarantees a life-long job in a good company. The 10-year-old children in this study were well aware of the expectation to perform well academically if they are to achieve success. In contrast to Korea and Taiwan cultures, which are very high in uncertainty avoidance (85 and 69, respectively), Hong Kong culture is very low in uncertainty avoidance (29; lower, in fact, than the English-speaking cultures). Yet like Korea and Taiwan, Hong Kong is notorious for its high-stress educational systems with large amounts of homework, frequent assessments, and cram schools to ensure students achieve; children in all three East Asian cultures express concerns and problems related to academic and sports achievement.

The high power distance of all three East Asian cultures may have contributed to the Asian children’s greater inclusion of adults in their stories. The high power distance in Taiwanese culture may also have influenced the Taiwanese children to tell stories regarding school responsibilities – teachers expected that students come to class prepared. Students were accepting of teachers’ authority in these matters, and they did not expect teachers to provide them with what they had forgotten.

The individualism – collectivism dimension may account for differences observed with the peer relationship topic and content. Individualism has been associated with greater aggression to others – both within and outside of the group. Persons within collective cultures also exhibit aggression, but the aggression is more likely to be directed to persons outside the group not within the group. Bergmuller [51] examined the relationship between countries’ dominant cultural values (i.e., individualism vs. collectivism) and school principals’ perceptions of aggressive student behavior. School principals in 62 countries reported verbal and physical aggressive student behavior more frequently when a country’s culture was more individualistic than when the country’s culture was more collective. Based on Hofstede’s evaluation system, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA are among the most individualistic countries in the world (https://www.hofstede-insights.com/). For English-speaking children, 48% of their problem stories (30 of 62 stories) had peer relationship topics versus 18% of East Asian children’s stories (11 of 60 stories). Furthermore, 73% of the English-speaking children’s stories (22 of 30) involved conflicts with peers compared to 45% of East Asian children’s stories (5 of 11). These results are in accord with those from other studies which have shown that American children include more reference to aggression than Chinese children in their fictional stories generated by story starters and in personal narratives when asked about memories, and Chinese children provide more instances of people helping one another in these stories. Persons in collective cultures may be more likely to help in-group members than persons in individualistic cultures [32, 52].

Although many of the English-speaking peer relationship stories appeared to reflect aggression, upon careful reading, they could be viewed from another perspective. In Western cultures, children are socialized to be independent. To be independent, it is important for persons to establish who they are, speak their mind, and stand up for their needs, rights, and desires, which may take priority over the needs, rights, and desires of others. They must develop an individualistic sense of agency which involves managing their lives by bringing their influence to bear on a situation [53]. To accomplish this, they must be able to verbally connect with others. Conflicts and associated arguments provide children with opportunities to express their needs and learn how to negotiate to get those needs met [54]. Many of the peer relationship stories told by the English-speaking children involved the children displaying their agency in taking control of the situation. Agency in Eastern cultures is more likely to reflect collective agency, in which people act together to achieve a goal. This culturally different approach to agency may account for the finding that more Asian than English-speaking children reported receiving or requesting assistance from others when solving problems.

The influence of individualism is strongly in evidence in the stories of the English-speaking children. The influence of collectivism is not as obvious in the stories of the Asian children, but it could be viewed as an underlying principle in many of them. Confucian doctrine views the individual as part of a community and a set of hierarchical relationships, known as wulun, which has five levels: the ruler and ruled (which includes government-citizen, employer-employee, teacher-student); husband-wife; parent-child; older siblings-younger siblings; and friends-friends [43]. In school, children perform not only because of the expected teacher-student relationship but also because school performance is a way to honor the parent-child relationship. Because the outcome of learning in Confucian philosophy is to become a sincere, humane person who contributes to social harmony, one might expect more examples of cooperation with and support of others.

Influences of Expectations, Translations, and Interpretations

Children in English-speaking countries are given frequent opportunities to share specific personal experiences at home and school. Such sharing may be less common in other cultures. For example, Mullen and Yi [26] reported that Euro-American mothers talked about past events with their preschool children three times more often than Korean mothers [26]. In this study, the Korean researcher reported initial difficulty in eliciting the stories from the children. The children questioned her about the task, indicating no one had ever asked them to do something like this. With the Global TALES protocol, children are to report a specific experience in response to each prompt, but the Korean children frequently responded with a general experience (e.g., playing with friends rather than a specific time and activity with friends; being worried about exams rather than trying to do well for a specific test). This required that the researcher provide additional follow-up prompts, which possibly resulted in her providing more structure to the activity. In the process, she may have guided the children to produce narratives that may not have been typical for children in their culture.

The Korean children’s tendency to give generic versus specific stories is consistent with research on reminiscing and autobiographical memory in persons in Eastern and Western cultures. A number of researchers have reported that Euro-American/Euro-Canadian parents reminisce in greater specific detail than East Asian parents [26‒28]. When recollecting autobiographical experiences, Wang [55] reported that across the lifespan, Euro-Americans recall more specific events; in contrast, Chinese adults recall more generic events (e.g., vacations in general, rather than a specific vacation). This difference in episodic memory specificity has been shown in children as early as preschool – with Euro-American and Euro-Canadian children recalling a greater number of specific events than Chinese and Korean children [56, 57]. The expectation of the Global TALES protocol to report specific experiences may thus be less familiar to children from some cultures.

Furthermore, interpretation of the data must consider the potential influence of the words used in translations of the protocol and of the follow-up prompts used to elicit the children’s personal narratives. Researchers from diverse linguistic backgrounds who have used the Global TALES protocol have reported some difficulty in translating the protocol in ways that conveyed the intent of prompts and in providing follow-up prompts that were culturally relevant [46]. The stories in response to the happy/excited prompt had the fewest number of category codes, indicating that across cultural groups, the children told happy/excited stories on similar topics. It may have been that the happy/excited prompt was more easily translated because there were comparable words in the different languages and the scripted follow-up prompt was relatable to children in all the cultures. Translating words such as worried, confused, annoyed, and problem was more challenging. Translations may have influenced the topic of the children’s stories. For example, in the current study, sixteen English-speaking children reported a specific time they wereconfused because they did not know something they needed to know, whereas only one Korean child reported a time they were confused.

The Korean researcher also raised concern about the follow-up prompt for the annoyed prompt. If children did not initially respond to the prompt to tell about a time that they were really annoyed or angry, the examiner gave the follow-up prompt, “Other children tell me a story about a friend or a brother or sister. Or sometimes they tell me about someone from the classroom who really annoyed them or made them feel angry.” The Korean researcher offered that, from her experience, Korean children would be more likely to report a situation (e.g., taking piano lessons) rather than a person when they talked about something they found annoying. Her use of the translated follow-up prompt may have led children to expect they should report annoyance with people.

The Korean and Cantonese narrative samples were collected via Zoom, whereas the Australian, Mandarin, US, and New Zealand samples were collected in face-to-face settings. It is possible that the manner of narrative elicitation may have influenced story topics and content. In this issue of Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, Ferman and Kawar [58] report a study of Israeli and Arabic children that indicated that the mode of the protocol elicitation (face-to-face or tele-/internet) affected the topics of the children’s narratives. Although the types of their narrative topics were not affected, the frequency of the different topics was affected.

Because of the small sample size for each group of children and because the samples are restricted to children of middle-class backgrounds, caution must be exercised in the interpretation of the data. Beliefs and practices of each individual member of a cultural group are shaped by their individual experiences. Increasing globalization contributes to cultural exchange of values and beliefs, and in so doing, it can result in a convergence of traditions, making some aspects of Eastern and Western cultures less distinct.

The ability to tell coherent personal narratives is a critical aspect of the development of a self-identity [11] and is associated with psychological well-being [59]. Self-identity involves knowing what is acceptable and true for oneself. Cultural identity is an aspect of self-identity that develops as children absorb, interpret, and adopt (or reject) the beliefs, values, behaviors, and norms of the communities in their lives [60]. Consideration of the topics and content of children’s narratives can provide insight into their sense of identity which can then provide guidance for what would be meaningful and relevant topics for narrative intervention for children from different cultural backgrounds. This study provides evidence of the kinds of topics and content present in the personal narratives of typically developing 10-year-olds from three Western English-speaking cultures and three East Asian cultures. Furthermore, the study offers explanations for the ways that cultural values and beliefs influence the narrative topics and content.

Kei-Mei Chen: The study protocol was reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board at Cung Shan Medical University in Taichung, Taiwan (CSMUH IRB number CS2-18073). Anita Mei-Yin Wong: The study protocol was reviewed and approved by the University of Hong Kong Human Research Ethics Committee, EA220094.

Carol Westby and Jisun P. Lee are speech-language pathologists working in private practice. They have no affiliation with a university or research institute. For this reason, Carol Westby and Jisun P. Lee were included in the IRB submission to the Human Research Ethics Committee at Griffith University in Australia by Marleen Westerveld, Global TALES project coordinator. The study protocol was reviewed and approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee at Griffith University (HREC; No.: 2018/273). In addition, Carol Westby was included in the IRB submission by Nickola W. Nelson (US researcher involved in the Global TALES project) to the Institutional Review Board of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in the USA (approved as IRB project number 18-08-13). Written informed consent was obtained from each parent and their child participant after the study protocols had been fully explained.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Funding for collecting the New Zealand data was obtained through the Better Start National Science Challenge, Ministry of Education Business Innovation and Employment (Grant No. 15-02688). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The authors of this article received no specific funding to support this research.

Carol Westby wrote the final version of this manuscript in collaboration with the other authors. She participated in data collection for the US sample, was responsible for coding of data from all English-speaking children, and worked with the Cantonese, Korean, and Mandarin-speaking researchers in coding the narratives from the children from Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan. Kai-Mei Chen wrote an initial draft of this manuscript. She recruited Mandarin-speaking participants. She collected, transcribed, and translated all data from Mandarin-speaking participants and worked with Carol Westby in coding and interpreting all Mandarin narrative data. Jisun P. Lee recruited Korean-speaking participants. She collected, transcribed, and translated all data from Korean children and worked with Carol Westby to code and interpret all Korean narrative data. Anita Mei-Yin Wong recruited Cantonese-speaking children. She collected, transcribed, and coded narratives from Cantonese-speaking children. She collaborated with other team members in data analysis and interpretation and edited the final manuscript.

The transcripts cannot be shared publicly because of confidentiality and privacy concerns. The Griffith University Human Ethics Research Committee approved the study, and the consent document that was approved assured participants that their data would not be shared with third parties beyond the research team. To request data underlying this manuscript, please contact either Dr. Marleen Westerveld, or the Manager, Research Ethics, Griffith University Human Research Ethics Committee at research-ethics@griffith.edu.au or +61-7-37354375, reference 2018/273.

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