Elaborative vs Repetitive Mothers

These posts are adapted from the 20 minute lessons on story telling presented by Dan at the beginning of our Workshop! Workshop! show.


Qi Wang is a scientist who did research based on work originally done by Robyn Fivush that determined that you can group mothers into two pretty broad groups.

One group is the Elaborative Mother and the other is the Repetitive Mother. The Repetitive Mother tells you just the facts. She places importance on the order of events and she wants to know why you’re telling the story. She wants to help you get through it and so she’ll ask questions and create scaffolding to help you create your story to help you be succinct and direct.  

All links are affiliate links

The Elaborative Mother asks questions like, “What was it about? What was the other person thinking? What was Sarah wearing? I want to know the details.” Those people tend to raise children who tell these elaborative stories and who think in this way. It plays out that you really end up having more vivid memories if you have this elaborative storytelling style.

Qi Wang wondered if the repetitive mother is more common in China and if she is, then do you get culturally different outcomes? Are their different outcomes in the way you tell a story if you’re American than you would if you were Chinese?

She found that in America we’re very individualistic. We want to know what makes you unique. What sets you apart, make the story about that. And what’s the cool thing that you did. We want to tell stories about ourselves that make us sound cool – even the ones were we emphasize our faults, those stories are redemptive in the end. You can lose, if you learn something from the loss.

By contrast, in China she found that stories tend to focus on their relationship to other people. This isn’t good or bad, but it does mean that some stories work better in different places.


If you are interested in what stories work in what cultural settings, then reaching out to folklore storytellers may be a fun & productive place to start.

Otherwise, follow us on twitch.tv/storyluck and show up for the next episode. We are every Monday at 6pm but Monday, Dan will be talking about David Sedaris.

Workshop! Workshop! Happens Every Monday 6pm Central. Watch us live on twitch.tv/storyluck

Permanent link to this article: https://storyluck.org/elaborative-vs-repetitive-mothers/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.