The Psychology of Life Stories

Review of General Psychology (Impact Factor: 1.78). 05/2001; 5(2):100-122. DOI: 10.1037/1089-2680.5.2.100


Recent years have witnessed an upsurge of interest among theorists and researchers in autobiographical recollections, life stories, and narrative approaches to understanding human behavior and experience. An important development in this context is D. P. McAdams's life story model of identity (1985; see also records
1993-97296-000 and
1996-06098-001), which asserts that people living in modern societies provide their lives with unity and purpose by constructing internalized and evolving narratives of the self. The idea that identity is a life story resonates with a number of important themes in developmental, cognitive, personality, and cultural psychology. This article reviews and integrates recent theory and research on life stories as manifested in investigations of self-understanding, autobiographical memory, personality structure and change, and the complex relations between individual lives and cultural modernity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

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    • "The narrative identity model is rooted in McAdams' (e.g.,McAdams, 2001;McAdams & Cox, 2010) interpretation of Erikson's theory, in combination with personality theories. The model of narrative identity development rests heavily on the processes critical to constructing a personal story, based on autobiographical memories, about how one has come to be the person one currently is (e.g.,Pasupathi, Mansour, & Brubaker, 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: In the present study we examined the role of identity content in relation to identity processes in a sample of college-going emerging adults (n = 255). Participants reported eight narratives each (n = 2,040 narratives) in response to prompts for specific identity content domains (occupation, values, politics, religion, family, romance, friends, and sex roles), and completed survey measures of identity exploration and commitment. Narratives were coded for content and meaning-making. In general, participants reported the content requested but were less likely to do so in certain domains (e.g., religion) than others (e.g., family). Identity processes varied by content domain, suggesting that identity contents may require different forms of processing. Results reveal the importance of examining identity content for a fuller understanding of identity development.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Emerging Adulthood
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    • "feasible, to study autobiographical memory without evoking the Self. This concept has become central to theorizing in the area (e.g., Conway, 2005; Conway, Singer, & Tagini, 2004; McAdams, 2001; Nelson, 1993), despite being both complex and difficult to define (Baumeister, 1987; Gallagher, 2000; Neisser, 1988; also see below). As its name implies, transition theory assigns transitions a central role in the organization of autobiographical memory. "

    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · The American Journal of Psychology
    • "To investigate individual experiences of identity diffusion across time this study turned to the narrative approach to identity development (e.g.,McAdams, 2001), and more specifically qualitative investigations of change and stability in individual identity status interview narratives across time (Carlsson et al., 2015). From a narrative perspective people form their identities through elaborate narratives, which need to be reworked in relation to new experiences throughout life (e.g.,McAdams & Cox, 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: This study adds to the understanding of the dark side of identity development by investigating what it means to experience long-term identity diffusion during the late twenties. In a study of change and stability in identity status between ages 25 and 29 (N = 124; 63 women), seven participants were assigned to identity diffusion at both ages. Longitudinal analysis of interviews with these participants showed that long-term experiences of identity diffusion may be described through individuals' approach to changing life conditions, the extent to which they engage in meaning making, and how they develop their personal life direction. In questionnaires, participants reported few signs of psychological distress. Even so, qualitative analyses showed a general trend among participants to keep life on hold through decreased activity or increased haphazard activity in relation to changing life conditions, to make little new meaning, and in some cases to dissolve their personal life direction.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Journal of Adolescence
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