Life's little (and big) lessons: Identity statuses and meaning-making in the turning point narratives of emerging adults

  • McLean K
  • Pratt M
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Abstract

A longitudinal study examined relations between 2 approaches to identity development: the identity status model and the narrative life story model. Turning point narratives were collected from emerging adults at age 23 years. Identity statuses were collected at several points across adolescence and emerging adulthood, as were measures of generativity and optimism. Narratives were coded for the sophistication of meaning-making reported, the event type in the narrative, and the emotional tone of the narrative. Meaning-making was defined as connecting the turning point to some aspect of or understanding of oneself. Results showed that less sophisticated meaning was associated particularly with the less advanced diffusion and foreclosure statuses, and that more sophisticated meaning was associated with an overall identity maturity index. Meaning was also positively associated with generativity and optimism at age 23, with stories focused on mortality experiences, and with a redemptive story sequence. Meaning was negatively associated with achievement stories. Results are discussed in terms of the similarities and differences in the 2 approaches to identity development and the elaboration of meaning-making as an important component of narrative identity.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Adolescence
  • Autobiographical memory
  • Identity
  • Meaning-making
  • Narrative

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Authors

  • Kate C. McLean

  • Michael W. Pratt

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