The current study explored parental processes associated with children’s global self-esteem development.
Eighty 5- to 13-year-olds and one of their parents provided qualitative and quantitative data through questionnaires,
open-ended questions, and a laboratory-based reminiscing task. Parents who included more explanations
of emotions when writing about the lowest points in their lives were more likely to discuss
explanations of emotions experienced in negative past events with their child, which was associated with
child attachment security. Attachment was associated with concurrent self-esteem, which predicted relative
increases in self-esteem 16 months later, on average. Finally, parent support also predicted residual increases
in self-esteem. Findings extend prior research by including younger ages and uncovering a process by which
two theoretically relevant parenting behaviors impact self-esteem development.
Life narratives are the internalized stories that people construct to provide meaning, purpose, and coherence in their lives.
Prior research suggests that psychologically healthy and socially engaged adults generally narrate their lives in a prototypical
fashion labeled the redemptive self, consisting of five themes: (a) a sense of childhood advantage, (b) empathy for others’
sufferings, (c) moral steadfastness, (d) turning of negative events into positive outcomes (redemption sequences), and (e)
prosocial goals. The current study examines trait correlates of the redemptive self in 157 late-midlife adults. Summing thematic
scores across 12 life story interview scenes, the redemptive self was positively associated with four of the Big Five traits:
extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and emotional stability, but unrelated to cognitive features of personality, as
assessed on openness and ego development. The findings suggest those with positive socio-emotional personality traits, but
not necessarily a proclivity for sophisticated thoughts, tend to have redemptive life stories.
We examined continuity and change in the tendencies to construct a life story (i.e., narrative identity) that was redemptive or
contaminated in nature. In Study 1, college freshmen and seniors wrote accounts of several autobiographical key scenes pertinent
to narrative identity twice over a 3-year period. In Study 2, midlife adults provided, via a semistructured interview, key scenes
twice over a 5-year period and also indicated whether their employment status had changed between assessments. Across
studies, the rank-order consistency of redemptive and contaminated stories was moderate and low to moderate, respectively. In
Study 1, the frequency of redemptive and contaminated stories increased throughout college. Furthermore, the frequency of
contaminated stories decreased following graduation. In Study 2, changes in employment status corresponded with reduced
redemptive imagery. These results suggest a possible narrative acculturation of young adults as well as a correspondence between
changes in life circumstances and narrative identity.
Generativity is an adult’s concern for and commitment to promoting the well-being of future generations. Analyzing lengthy life-narrative interviews of late-midlife adults, we examined the extent to which a particular kind of life story is empirically linked to self-report measures of generativity and other indices of psychosocial adaptation in midlife. The results showed that highly generative adults are significantly more likely than their less-generative counterparts to construe their lives as variations on a prototypical redemption narrative, wherein the story’s protagonist (a) enjoys an early advantage in life, (b) exhibits sensitivity to the suffering of other people, (c) develops a clear moral framework, (d) repeatedly transforms negative scenes into positive outcomes, and (e) pursues prosocial goals for the future. The psychological and cultural features of redemptive life stories are considered, as are the problems and potentialities of life-narrative research in psychological science.
McAdams, D. P. & Guo, J. (2014). How shall I live? Constructing a life story in the college years. In C. Hanson (Ed.),In search of self: Exploring undergraduate identity development. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. This chapter applies the concept of narrative identity to college student development. The authors describe a narrative interview method that can […]