Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 149–161 | Cite as

Personality characteristics of highly generative adults as assessed in Q-sort ratings of life stories

  • Amy J. Himsel
  • Holly Hart
  • Ann Diamond
  • Dan P. McAdams
Article

Abstract

The present study compared the personality characteristics assessed in life stories of 40 highly generative adults to those in the life stories of a contrasting sample of 30 less generative adults. Life-story interviews of all 70 subjects were rated with the California Adult Q-Sort (CAQ; Block, 1961). The results were compared to the “expert” generativity CAQ profile compiled by Peterson and Klohnen (1995). The results indicated that highly generative adults were more likely to construct life stories indicative of such positive generativity characteristics as “behaves in a giving way toward others” and “is turned to for advice and reassurance” compared to adults low in generativity. Furthermore, the highly generative adults related life-story accounts in which negative generativity qualities such as “has hostility toward others” and “is self-indulgent” were more uncharacteristic than those expressed in the low-generativity adults' stories. The study adds to a growing empirical literature on the meaning and manifestations of generativity in adult lives and suggests that the CAQ is a useful tool for uncovering personality characteristics expressed in the life-story accounts generated by adults.

Key Words

Generativity California Adult Q-Sort (CAQ) personality life stories narratives 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Bakan, D. (1966).The duality of human existence. Chicago: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
  2. Block, J. (1957). A comparison between ipsative and normative ratings of personality.Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 54, 50–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Block, J. (1961).The Q-sort method in personality assessment and psychiatric research. Springfield, IL: C. C. Thomas.Google Scholar
  4. Block, J. (1971).Lives through time. Berkeley, CA: Bancroft Books.Google Scholar
  5. Cole, E. R., & Stewart, A. J. (1996). Meanings of political participation among black and white women: Political identity and social responsibility.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 130–140.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. De St. Aubin, E., & McAdams, D. P. (1995). The relations of generative concern and generative action to personality traits, satisfaction/happiness with life, and ego development.Journal of Adult Development, 2, 99–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Erikson, E. H. (1963).Childhood and Society, (2nd ed.), New York: Norton. (Original work published 1950).Google Scholar
  8. Keyes, C. L., & Ryff, C. (in press). Generativity in adult lives: Social structural contours and quality of life consequences. In D. P. McAdams & E. de St. Aubin (Eds.),Generativity and adult development. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press.Google Scholar
  9. Kotre, J. (1984).Outliving the self: Generativity and the interpretation of lives. Baltimore, MD. Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Mansfield, E., & McAdams, D. P. (1996). Generativity and themes of agency and communion in adult autobiography.Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 721–731.Google Scholar
  11. McAdams, D. P. (1985).Power, intimacy, and the life story: Personological inquiries into identity. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  12. McAdams, D. P., & de St. Aubin, E. (1992). A theory of generativity and its assessment through self-report, behavioral acts, and narrative themes in autobiography.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62, 1003–1015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. McAdams, D. P., & de St. Aubin, E. (Eds.). (in press).Generativity and adult development: Psychosocial perspectives on caring for and contributing to the next generation. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press.Google Scholar
  14. McAdams, D. P., de St. Aubin, E., & Logan, R. L. (1993). Generativity among young, midlife, and older adults.Psychology and Aging, 8, 221–230.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. McAdams, D. P., Diamond, A., de St. Aubin, E., & Mansfield, E. (1997). Stories of commitment: The psychosocial construction of generative lives.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 678–694.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. McAdams, D. P., Hart, H., & Maruna, S. (in press). The anatomy of generativity. In D. P. McAdams & E. de St. Aubin (Eds.),Generativity and adult development. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press.Google Scholar
  17. McAdams, D. P., Ruetzel, K., & Foley, J. M. (1986). Complexity and generativity at midlife: Relations among social motives, ego development, and adults' plans for the future.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 800–807.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Peterson, B. E., & Klohnen, E. C. (1995). The realization of generativity in two samples of women at midlife.Psychology and Aging, 10, 20–29.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Peterson, B. E., & Stewart, A. J. (1990). Using personal and fictional documents to assess psychosocial development: A case study of Vera Brittain's generativity.Psychology and Aging, 5, 400–411.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Peterson, B. E., & Stewart, A. J. (1993). Generativity and social motives in young adults.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 186–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ryff, C. D., & Heincke, S. G. (1983). Subjective organization of personality in adulthood and aging.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 807–816.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Snarey, J. (1993).How fathers care for the next generation: A fourdecade study. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Stephenson, W. (1953).The study of behavior. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  24. Stewart, A. J., Franz, E., & Layton, L. (1988). The changing self: Using personal documents to study lives.Journal of Personality, 56, 41–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Stewart, A. J., & Vandewater, E. (in press). The course of generativity. In D. P. McAdams & E. de St. Aubin, (Eds.),Generativity and adult development. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press.Google Scholar
  26. Vaillant, G. E., & Milofsky, E. (1980). The natural history of male psychological health: IX. Empirical evidence for Erikson's model of the life cycle.American Journal of Psychiatry, 137, 1348–1359.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy J. Himsel
    • 1
  • Holly Hart
    • 1
  • Ann Diamond
    • 1
  • Dan P. McAdams
    • 1
  1. 1.Northwestern UniversityEvanston

Personalised recommendations