Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 81–104

Narrative identity and eudaimonic well-being

  • Jack J. Bauer
  • Dan P. McAdams
  • Jennifer L. Pals
Article

Abstract

Narrative identity refers to the internal, dynamic life story that an individual constructs to make sense of his or her life. We argue that narrative identity is closely tied to the subjective interpretation of oneself as happy. We present a view of eudaimonic well-being that extends beyond the sense of having pleasure and meaning in one’s life (measured as self-report well-being) to include higher degrees of psychosocial integration in that meaning (measured as ego development). This combination of qualities is characteristic of the good life, or eudaimonia, in a tradition dating to Aristotle. We then describe research showing how several patterns of narrative identity correspond to this extended notion of eudaimonic well-being. First, people at high levels of eudaimonic well-being tend to emphasize personal growth in their life stories, with different kinds of personal growth corresponding to different facets of eudaimonic well-being. Second, these people also tend to frame difficult life experiences as transformative experiences wherein they suffered deep pain but gained new insights about the self. Third, charting the move from suffering to an enhanced status or state, their stories often follow a culturally-shaped script of redemption, which in American society is often conceived as upward social mobility, liberation, recovery, atonement, or the full actualization of the inner self.

Keywords

life stories the good life happiness meaningfulness ego development growth stories self-transformation the redemptive self 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Ackerman S., Zuroff D., Moscowitz D.S. 2000, Generativity in midlife and young adults: Links to agency, communion, and well-being International Journal of Aging and Human Development 50: 17–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adler, J., E. Kissel and D.P. McAdams: in press, ‘Emerging from the CAVE: Attributional style and the narrative study of identity in midlife adults’, Cognitive Therapy and ResearchGoogle Scholar
  3. Allport G.W., Ross M.J. 1967, Personal religious orientation and prejudice Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 5:432–443CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bauer J.J., Bonanno G.A. 2001, Continuity amid discontinuity: Bridging one’s past and present in stories of conjugal bereavement Narrative Inquiry 11: 123–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bauer J.J., McAdams D.P. 2000, Competence, relatedness, and autonomy in life stories Psychological Inquiry 11: 276–279Google Scholar
  6. Bauer J.J., McAdams D.P. 2004a, Growth goals, maturity, and well-being Developmental Psychology 40: 114–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bauer J.J., McAdams D.P. 2004b, Personal growth in adults’ stories of life transitions Journal of Personality 72: 573–602CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bauer J.J., McAdams D.P., Sakaeda A.R. 2005, Interpreting the good life: Growth memories in the lives of mature, happy people Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 88: 203–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Blagov P.S., Singer J.A. 2004, Four dimensions of self-defining memories (specificity, meaning, content, and affect) and their relationships to self-restraint, distress, and repressive defensiveness. Journal of Personality 72: 481–512CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bluck S., Gluck J. 2004, Making things better and learning a lesson: Experiencing wisdom across the lifespan Journal of Personality 72: 543–572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brockmeier J. 2000, Autobiographical time Narrative Inquiry 10: 51–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bruner J. 1990, Acts of meaning Harvard University, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  13. Calhoun L.G., Tedeschi R.G. 1998, Posttraumatic growth: Future directions in Tedeschi R.G., Park C.L., Calhoun L.G. (eds.), Posttraumatic Growth: Positive Changes in the Aftermath of Crisis Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ, pp. 215–238Google Scholar
  14. Cushman P. 1995, Constructing the Self, Constructing America Addison-Wesley, Reading, MAGoogle Scholar
  15. Damon W., Hart D. 1988, Self-understanding in Childhood and Adolescence Cambridge University, Cambridge, EnglandGoogle Scholar
  16. Deci E.L., Ryan R.M. 2000, The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior Psychological Inquiry 11: 227–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Diener E., Emmons R.A., Larson R.J., Griffen S. 1985, The satisfaction with life scale Journal of Personality Assessment 49: 71–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Erikson E.H., 1963, Childhood and Society 2nd Ed. Norton, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Fivush R., Nelson K. 2004, Culture and language in the emergence of autobiographical memory Psychological Science 15: 573–577CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Giddens A. 1991, Modernity and Self-identity Stanford University Press, Stanford, CAGoogle Scholar
  21. Helson, R. and B. W. Roberts: 1994, `Ego development and personality change in adulthood', Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 66, pp. 911–920Google Scholar
  22. Helson, R. and P. Wink: 1992, `Personality change in women from the early 40s to the early 50's, Psychology and Aging 7, pp. 46–55Google Scholar
  23. Kasser T., Ryan R.M., 1996, Further examining the American dream: Well-being correlates of intrinsic and extrinsic goals Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 22: 281–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. King L.A., 2001, The hard road to the good life: The happy, mature person Journal of Humanistic Psychology 41: 51–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. King L.A., Napa C.K. 1998, What makes a life good? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 75: 156–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. King L.A., Raspin C. 2004, Lost and found possible selves subjective well-being, and ego development in divorced women, Journal of Personality 72: 603–632Google Scholar
  27. King L.A., Scollon C.K., Ramsey C., Williams T. 2000, Stories of life transition: Subjective well-being and ego development in parents of children with Down Syndrome Journal of Research in Personality 34: 509–536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. King L.A., Smith N.G. 2004, Gay and straight possible selves: Goals, identity, subjective well-being, and personality development Journal of Personality 72: 967–994CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Loevinger J. 1976, Ego development. Jossey-Bass, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  30. Loevinger J. 1993, Conformity and conscientiousness: One factor or two stages?. in Funder D.C., Parke R.D., Carol T.-K., Widaman K. (eds.), Studying Lives Through Time: Personality and Development. American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, pp. 189–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. MacDermid S.M., Franz C.E., De Reus L.A. 1998, Generativity: At the crossroads of social roles and personality in McAdams D.P., de St. Aubin E. (eds.), Generativity and Adult Development: How and Why We Care for the Next Generation. APA Books, Washington, DC, pp. 181–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mansfield E., McAdams D.P. 1996, Generativity and themes of agency and communion in adult autobiography Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 22: 721–731CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Maslow A.H. 1968, Toward a Psychology of Being Van Nostrand Reinhold, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  34. McAdams D.P. 1982, Experiences of intimacy and power: Relationships between social motives and autobiographical memory Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 42: 292–302 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McAdams D.P. 1985, Power, Intimacy, and the Life Story Guilford, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  36. McAdams D.P. 2001a, The psychology of life stories Review of General Psychology 5: 100–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McAdams D.P. 2001b, Generativity in midlife in Lachman M.E. (ed), Handbook of Midlife Development. Wiley, New York, pp. 395–443Google Scholar
  38. McAdams D.P. 2006, The redemptive self: Stories Americans live by Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  39. McAdams D.P., Bowman P.J. 2001, Narrating life’s turning points: Redemption and contamination in McAdams D.P., Josselson R., Lieblich A. (eds), Turns in the Road: Narrative Studies of Lives in Transition. APA Books, Washington, DC, pp. 3–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 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: 1003–1015CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 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: 678–694CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McAdams D.P., Hoffman B.J., Mansfield E.D., Day R. 1996, Themes of agency and communion in significant autobiographical scenes Journal of Personality 64: 339–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McAdams D.P., Reynolds J., Lewis M., Patten A., Bowman P.T. 2001, When bad things turn good and good things turn bad: Sequences of redemption and contamination in life narrative, and their relation to psychosocial adaptation in midlife adults and in students Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 27: 472–483CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. McCrae R.R., Costa P.T. 1999, A five-factor theory of personality. in Pervin L.A., John O.P. (eds), Handbook of Personality: Theory and Research. 2nd Ed. Guildford, New York, pp. 139–153Google Scholar
  45. McGregor, I., D.P. McAdams and B.R. Little: in press, ‘Personal projects, life stories, and happiness: On being true to traits’, Journal of Research in PersonalityGoogle Scholar
  46. Pals, J.L.: 2006a, Constructing the ‘springboard effect’: Causal connections, self-making, and growth within the life story, in D.P. McAdams, R.␣Josselson and A. Lieblich (eds.), Identity and Story: Creating Self in Narrative (APA Books, Washington, DC), pp. 175–199Google Scholar
  47. Pals, J.L.: 2006b, ‘Narrative identity processing of difficult life experiences: Pathways of personality development and positive self-transformation in adulthood’, Journal of Personality 74, pp. 1079–1110Google Scholar
  48. Pals J.L., McAdams D.P. 2004, The transformed self: A narrative understanding of posttraumatic growth Psychological Inquiry 15: 65–69Google Scholar
  49. Pasupathi M. 2001, The social construction of the personal past and its implications for adult development Psychological Bulletin 127: 651–672CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Piaget J. 1970, Piaget’s theory in Mussen P. (ed.), Carmichael’s Manual of Child Psychology. John Wiley, New York, pp. 703–732Google Scholar
  51. Rogers C.R. 1961, On Becoming a Person Houghton Mifflin, BostonGoogle Scholar
  52. Ryan R.M., Deci E.L. 2001, On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being Annual Review of Psychology 52: 141–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Ryff C.D., Keyes C.L.M. 1995, The structure of psychological well-being revisited Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 69: 719–727CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ryff C.D., Singer B. 1998, The contours of positive human health Psychological Inquiry 9: 1–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sarbin T.R. 1986, The narrative as a root metaphor for psychology in Sarbin T.R. (ed), Narrative Psychology: The Storied Nature of Human Conduct. Praeger, New York, pp. 3–21Google Scholar
  56. Sheldon K.M., Kasser T. 1995, Coherence and congruence: Two aspects of personality integration Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 68: 531–543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Singer J.A. 2004, Narrative identity and meaning-making across the adult lifespan: An introduction Journal of Personality 72: 437–460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Singer J.A., Salovey P. 1993, The Remembered Self: Emotion and Memory in Personality The Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  59. Taylor, C.: 1989, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity (Harvard, Cambridge, MA)Google Scholar
  60. Thorne A. 2000, Personal memory telling and personality development Personality and Social Psychology Review 4: 45–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Thorne A., McLean K.C., Lawrence A.M. 2004, When remembering is not enough: Reflecting on self-defining memories in late adolescence Journal of Personality 72: 513–542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Vaillant, G.E. and L. McCullough: 1987, `The Washington University Sentence Completion Test compared with other measures of adult ego development', American Journal of Psychiatry 144, pp. 1189–1194Google Scholar
  63. Watson D., Clark L.A., Tellegen A. 1988, Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 54: 1063–1070CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Werner H. 1957, The concept of development from a comparative and organismic point of view in Harris D.B. (ed.) The Concept of Development : An Issue in the Study of Human Behavior. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, pp. 125–148Google Scholar
  65. Westenberg, P.M. and J. Block: 1993, `Ego development and individual differences in personality', Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65, pp. 792–800Google Scholar
  66. Westenberg P.M., Blasi A., Cohn L.D. (eds.) 1998, Personality development: Theoretical, empirical, and clinical investigations of Loevinger’s conception of ego development. Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJGoogle Scholar
  67. Woike B. 1995, Most memorable experiences: Evidence for a link between implicit and explicit motives and social cognitive processes in everyday life Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 68: 1081–1091CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Woike B., Matic D., 2004, Cognitive complexity in response to traumatic experience Journal of Personality 72: 633–657CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jack J. Bauer
    • 1
  • Dan P. McAdams
    • 2
  • Jennifer L. Pals
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of DaytonDaytonUSA
  2. 2.Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  3. 3.Haverford CollegeHaverfordUSA

Personalised recommendations