How Stories Found a Home in Human Personality

Authored by: Dan P. McAdams

The Routledge International Handbook on Narrative and Life History

Print publication date:  October  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138784291
eBook ISBN: 9781315768199
Adobe ISBN: 9781317665717


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A person’s narrative identity is the internalized and evolving story the person constructs to explain how he or she came to be the person that he or she is becoming (McAdams & McLean, 2013). Complete with setting, scenes, characters, plot, and themes, narrative identity reconstructs the past and imagines the future in such a way as to give a person’s life a coherent narrative form. Psychological research suggests that many people begin to conceive of their lives as ongoing stories in their adolescent years (Habermas & Bluck, 2000) and that these narrative understandings of self ultimately serve to provide life itself with some semblance of meaning, unity, and purpose. A person’s internalized and evolving story of the self reflects personal experience for sure, but it is also decisively shaped by culture (Hammack, 2008). People draw upon their culture’s favored narratives regarding how a human life should unfold and who they may aspire to be in constructing their own personal stories about who they were in the past, who they are today, and who they eventually hope to become in the future.

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