Narratives of Transformation

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This paper will describe the results of a pilot qualitative study using in-depth life story interviews of ten victims of violent crime to explore the role of developmental and cultural context in shaping the construction of narrative about trauma, healing, and personal transformation. The narrative process is a vital component of personal transformation. These personal narratives influence how individuals approach the unfolding of future life events (Baumeister, 1991). Troy-Smith (1996, p. 23) quotes David Leeming’s definition of ‘story’ as helping in the “search for identity in the context of the universal struggle between order and chaos”. However, many challenging questions on the use of narrative have yet to be fully investigated. These include the relationship between narrative and historical truth (Acocella, 1999; Personal Narratives Group, 1989; Spence, 1982) and the interplay between construction of narratives and psychosocial development (McAdams, 1994; McAdams & Ochberg, 1988). Finally, the relative utility of specific themes (and their cultural context) in helping people achieve states of mind deemed personally satisfactory needs further elucidation. Themes to be detailed include the sense of agency and identity, turning points, external versus internal change, self-reported character traits, and context.


Keywords: Transformation, Healing, Qualitative Research
Stream: Sociology, Geography
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Narratives of Transformation,


Dr. Madeline Louise Lovell

Associate Professor, Department of Anthrolpology, Sociology, and Social Work, Seattle University
Seattle, WA, USA

Dr. Lovell teaches in sociology and social work. The current study evolved out of a 3 year restorative justice study of seminars attended by offenders, crime victims and community members to explore the effects of crime and whether offenders could make amends. SHe has also done research in child welfare, child abuse, and disaster relief.

Dr. Mark Cohan

Visiting Professor, Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work, Seattle University
Seattle, WA, USA

Dr. Cohan is a sociologist specializing in social pyschology. He studies identity formation.

Dr. Jacqueline Helfgott

Associate Professor and Chair, Criminal Justice, Seattle University
Seattle, WA, USA

Dr. Helfgott conducts research in restorative justice, corrections, gender and crime, and public perceptions of crime. She directs the Department of Criminal Justice which houses 300 undergrauate and 45 graduate students.

Dr. Charles Lawrence

Associate Provost, Seattle University
Seattle, WA, USA

Dr. Lawrence is a sociologist with research interests in restorative justice and healing.

Ref: I08P0352