The problem of narrative coherence

Dan P. McAdams*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

214 Scopus citations


A growing number of psychological theorists, researchers, and therapists agree that people create meaningful selves through the individual and social construction of coherent life stories. But what is a coherent story? And are good life stories always coherent? This article addresses the problem of narrative coherence by considering the propositions that coherent life stories (1) provide convincing causal explanations for the self, (2) reflect the richness of lived experience, and (3) advance socially-valued living action. Like all stories, life stories exist to be told or performed in social contexts. Most criteria for coherence, therefore, reflect the culture within which the story is told and the life is lived.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-125
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Constructivist Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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