By: Hannah Heitz
In 1984, Dr. Fivush joined Emory’s Psychology Department and played a role in advocating for the creation of the Women’s Studies Department. Her involvement with Women’s Studies prompted changes in her research approach and her growing interest in Feminist Theory had a powerful influence on her conception of narrative. Her humanistic approach strengthened as she pursued research on a small sample of women who had experienced severe sexual abuse. The interviews involved discussing intensive, disturbing details of the participants' traumatic experiences. Although it was a small study, it had the most impact on Dr. Fivush as a researcher, and as a person. As she described, research is not always a scripted process; it is interactive. The interview is an interaction between participant and researcher—it is not simply a list of questions and answers with the aim of statistically significant empirical data.
Currently, Dr. Fivush is working with Dr. Natalie Merrill, a former graduate student, on intergenerational narrative research. Intergenerational narratives go beyond the typical lifespan narrative, which includes the period of birth through death. These narratives explore how we define ourselves based on family histories and how we construct our life story in relation to our parents and families. What do you know about your grandparent’s experience? What stories do your parents share about their childhood? Are they positive? Negative? How have they influenced you today? In psychology, intergenerational factors have powerful influence on sense of self, narratives of stressful events, attachment styles, and self-regulation. Current biological research is mirroring this intergenerational focus with studies analyzing how your great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents influence your own biological makeup today.