Generativity and themes of agency and communion in adult autobiography

Elizabeth D. Mansfield*, Dan P. McAdams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Theorists have suggested that generativity combines tendencies toward both agency and communion in adult lives. The highly generative adult is able to generate products that extend the self in a powerful way (agency) and to offer those products to others with the purpose of assisting the next generation (communion). This study examined differences between two groups of subjects, more and less generative adults, in their autobiographical expressions of agency and communion. Employing a new coding system for analyzing themes of agency and communion in significant life-story scenes, the study revealed that highly generative adults express greater levels of communion in their autobiographical scenes than do less generative adults, especially with respect to the communal themes of dialogue and care/help. Highly generative adults also show greater levels of agency/communion integration. However, in the agency themes alone, no significant differences between the two groups emerged.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)721-731
Number of pages11
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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