Sales, J.M., Fivush, R., & Peterson, C. (2003). Parental reminiscing about positive and negative events. Journal of Cognition and Development, 4, 185-211.


Whereas a great deal of research has examined parental reminiscing style and its effect on children's recall of positive events, there has been very little research comparing how parent's talk with their children about positive versus negative events. Thus, the present study examined how sixty-seven mostly white, middle class parents talked with their preschool children about two emotionally laden events; an injury resulting in emergency room treatment and an individually nominated, positively valenced experience. Group differences were found in parental reminiscing between positive and negative events, such that parents asked a higher proportion of open-ended memory questions in conversations about negative experiences and a higher proportion of yes/no questions in conversations about positive experiences. Also, parents focused more on emotion when discussing positive experiences with their children and more on causal explanations during the negative conversations. However, individual parents were consistent in both their reminiscing style (elaborations, repetitions, and evaluations) and content (talk about causes and emotions) across event types. Finally, parental reminiscing style was correlated with children's recall for both types of events such that parents with an elaborative style had children who reported more new information during the conversations. Implications for children coping with stressful experiences, as well as future research are discussed.