A central psychological challenge of emerging adulthood is the construction and internalization of a self-defining life story or narrative identity. In becoming an author for one's own life, the emerging adult develops a personal narrative that selectively reconstructs the past and imagines the future in such a way as to provide life with purpose, meaning, and a sense of temporal coherence. This article sketches the main themes and processes involved in the development of narrative identity in emerging adulthood by briefly reviewing empirical studies and describing two notable case examples-Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Both Obama and Bush sought to discover and/or compose self-defining life narratives during their emerging adulthood years. Despite their many differences, both ended up drawing upon important social relationships and deep cultural sources to develop powerful stories of personal redemption-in Obama's case a story of redemption through liberation and self-discovery, and in Bush's case a story of redemption through recovery, atonement, and the achievement of self-regulation. As illustrated in the case examples, the development of narrative identity should set the psychological stage for meeting the daunting life challenges of the 30s and midlife.
- emerging adulthood
- life course
- psychological challenge
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Life-span and Life-course Studies