Stories of the young and the old: personal continuity and narrative identity

Dev Psychol. 2008 Jan;44(1):254-64. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.44.1.254.


This study examined narrative identity in 2 groups of participants who were younger (ages ranging from late adolescence through young adulthood) and older (over the age of 65 years). Participants completed an extensive interview in which they reported three self-defining memories. Interviews were coded for several characteristics of autobiographical reasoning: self-event connections representing self-stability or self-change, event-event connections, reflective processing, and thematic coherence. Results showed that the older and younger groups were not different in terms of the frequencies of self-event connections or the levels of reflective processing. However, in comparison with the younger group, the older group had more thematic coherence and more stories representing stability, whereas the younger group had more stories representing change. Gender differences also emerged, suggesting that females may have an advantage in the development of narrative identity. Results are discussed in terms of the different ways to represent narrative identity at 2 ends of the life span.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Female
  • Human Development*
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Narration*
  • Psychology, Adolescent
  • Self Concept*
  • Sex Factors
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Thinking