Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Identity (Psychology) in adolescence, Fiction-Psychological aspects, Self psychology, Transitional objects (Psychology), Individuation (Psychology), Theoretical, Fiction, Narrative, Adolescent, Books, Stories, Fictional characters, Identity, Identity formation, Individuation, Winnicott, D. W. (Donald Woods), 1896-1971, Transitional experience, Kohut, Heinz, Parasocial relationships, Selfobjects


This theoretical study explores the ways in which adolescents' engagement with fictional narratives can support developmental processes of identity formation and individuation. The purpose of the study was to develop a theoretical framework for understanding the intense relationship that some adolescents have with favorite books, movies, and television shows. A review of the literature on the psychology of fiction showed that, when deeply engaged with a narrative, readers are able to simulate characters' experiences in ways that lead to changes in behavior, empathy, and self-concept. A review of the literature on parasocial relationships showed that readers and viewers often form relationships with fictional characters that are similar to real-life social relationships. Two theories – self psychology and Winnicott's concept of transitional experience – were applied. These theoretical lenses helped to elucidate the ways that taking on the experiences of, or forming relationships with fictional characters can influence adolescents' processes of identity formation and individuation. Attention was given to the implications of such a framework for clinical work with adolescents. Additionally, recommendations were made for further research




iii, 63 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 58-63)

Limited Access until August 2020