Continuity and growth in the life story-or is it stagnation and flux?

Dan P. McAdams*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


In this commentary on the five papers included in this special section of Qualitative Psychology, I offer a historical perspective on the concept of narrative identity, and I reconsider a number of issues, methodological and conceptual, that pertain to the distinction between stability and change in life stories. Stability may be construed as either continuity or stagnation. Change may suggest growth or flux. The original conception of narrative identity articulated within the fields of personality and life span developmental psychology in the mid-1980s emphasized the idea that people are potentially consistent and coherent beings, which privileged the discourse of continuity and growth. Research into narrative identity, however, provides as much evidence for stagnation and flux as it does for continuity and growth. Moreover, both quantitative and qualitative approaches to research on narrative identity reveal how difficult it can be to discern stability and change in life stories and to know in any given study precisely what stability or change means. Having said that, the papers contained herein offer a goldmine of insights and innovations for the study of narrative identity, and they vividly illustrate the power of qualitative methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-214
Number of pages9
JournalQualitative Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • Life narrative
  • Repeated narration
  • Stability and change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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