Constructing Stories of Self-Growth: How Individual Differences in Patterns of Autobiographical Reasoning Relate to Well-Being in Midlife

Jennifer Pals Lilgendahl*, Dan P. Mcadams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although growth has been a central focus in narrative research, few studies have examined growth comprehensively, as a story that emerges across the interpretation of many events. In this study, we examined how individual differences in autobiographical reasoning (AR) about self-growth relate to traits and well-being in a national sample of midlife adults (N= 88) who ranged in age from 34 to 68. Two patterns of growth-related AR were identified: (1) positive processing, defined as the average tendency to interpret events positively (vs. negatively), and (2) differentiated processing, defined as the extent to which past events are interpreted as causing a variety of forms of self-growth. Results showed that positive processing was negatively related to neuroticism and predicted well-being even after controlling for the average valence of past events. Additionally, differentiated processing of negative events but not positive events was positively related to openness and predictive of well-being. Finally, growth-related AR patterns independently predicted well-being beyond the effects of traits and demographic factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-428
Number of pages38
JournalJournal of Personality
Volume79
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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