The single greatest life challenge: How late-midlife adults construct narratives of significant personal challenges

Henry R. Cowan*, Xiaodi Chen, Brady K. Jones, Dan P McAdams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study introduces the concept of the single greatest life challenge—the most subjectively-significant challenge a person has ever faced—and explores its implications for narrative identity. Through content coding of 157 late-midlife community adults’ life challenge narratives, we catalogued the distribution of 18 life challenge topics. Through exploratory factor analysis of narrative features, we found a four-factor structure (identity processing, agency/emotion, verbosity/specificity, and scope) largely consistent with the “big three” narrative identity metastructure. The agency/emotion factor was most closely tied to traits and functioning: it correlated negatively with neuroticism and depression, correlated positively with psychological well-being and life satisfaction, and provided incremental validity in predicting depression. The stories adults tell of their greatest challenges are informative about personality and psychological functioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103867
JournalJournal of Research in Personality
Volume83
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2019

Keywords

  • Agency
  • Autobiographical reasoning
  • Coping
  • Emotion
  • Narrative identity
  • Personality traits
  • Specific autobiographical content
  • Stress
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Psychology(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The single greatest life challenge: How late-midlife adults construct narratives of significant personal challenges'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this