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PS 277 – Lecture 10/11 – Chapter 10. Personality Development in Adulthood and the Life Story. Outline. McAdams’ theory of personality Traits and adult development Personal concerns and adulthood – Erikson’s stages and generativity The life story and identity – methods and findings.

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Ps 277 lecture 10 11 chapter 10
PS 277 – Lecture 10/11 – Chapter 10

  • Personality Development in Adulthood and the Life Story


  • McAdams’ theory of personality

  • Traits and adult development

  • Personal concerns and adulthood – Erikson’s stages and generativity

  • The life story and identity – methods and findings

I mcadams three part model of personality
I. McAdams’ Three-Part Model of Personality

  • Traits and dispositions – Big Five, common, “outside observer” knowledge (e.g., extroversion)

  • Characteristic adaptations - Goals, motives, personal projects – somewhat inside/still not unique (e.g., trying to be a good mother)

  • The life story – unique, personal, the “insider’s” view

  • Think about it: Which elements of personality are more determined by nature or nurture?

Ii dispositional traits and adult development the big five
II. Dispositional Traits and Adult Development (the Big Five)

  • Costa & McCrae’s work on the Big Five:

  • Neuroticism = average stability .50

  • Extroversion = stability .54

  • Openness = stability .51

  • Agreeableness = stability .54

  • Conscientiousness = stability .51

Sources of trait stability vs change
Sources of Trait Stability vs. Change Vecchio, 2000)

  • Sources of stability in midlife and later:

  • Heritability of traits is moderate in twin studies

  • Environmental stability in midlife: job, family, etc.

  • Identity stability in adulthood

Iii personal concerns and aging
III. Personal Concerns and Aging Vecchio, 2000)

  • Focus on goals, plans, projects, etc.

  • Erikson’s model of adult life stages and changes in broad personal concerns

  • Generativity and its relations to identity, intimacy and ego integrity

Key epigenetic principles in erikson
Key Epigenetic Principles in Erikson Vecchio, 2000)

  • “Each (component) comes to its ascendance, meets its crisis, and finds its lasting resolution toward the end of the stages mentioned” (Erikson, Identity: Youth and Crisis, p. 95)

  • Ascendance = person becomes “ready” for these crises (biological/developmental)

  • Crisis = environment feels ready to convey its particular way of contributing to his character, efficiency and strength of vitality

  • Lasting resolution = each stage demands some balance of component, influences from previous stage, forward onto future stage

Generativity as a project and its developmental context in midlife
Generativity as a Project and Its Developmental Context in Midlife

  • Caring for next generation as a legacy of self

  • Teaching, mentoring, supporting and helping others

  • Requires ability to invest in the needs of others (intimacy)

  • Recognize the limitations of self and need to deal with mortality

  • Parenting and caring for youth as a way of doing this – can be important across the life course

Darwin s generativity at 50
Darwin’s Generativity at 50 Midlife

  • Wallace’s paper on natural selection, sent to Darwin in 1856

  • Difficult issue for Darwin, but he ultimately supported its publication

  • Friends convinced him to publish it with his own work at same time

Generative themes in the life story teaching as an example
Generative Themes in the Life Story – Teaching as an Example

  • 70-year-old woman’s story to teach honesty: “I was a mediocre student and I used to hate geometry. One time we were given this homework assignment to do and I couldn’t, and so I took one of the books from a girl who had handed hers in and copied it into my book. But the teacher, who was a real battleaxe, found out. So I was really scared, but the teacher sat down and had a good talk with me, and from that moment on, I realized she wasn’t so horrible, and she really helped me a lot. I was scared out of my wits, but as soon as I’d managed to explain what happened I felt as if a heavy burden had been lifted…And so I told this story to my daughter who was having problems in another subject, and she did this exact same thing. And I was able to help her realize it was the wrong thing to do with my own example because I’d done it myself.”

Generativity and its relations to other stages
Generativity and Its Relations to Other Stages Example

  • McAdams’ “generative identity”

  • Intimacy Generativity

  • Generativity Ego Integrity

  • Lifespan Developmental Context

Iv the life story and identity mcadams theory
IV. The Life Story and Identity (McAdams’ Theory) Example

  • Life story is our way of telling others and ourselves who we are = defines our adult sense of identity

  • Selected autobiographical memories from the past and ideas and plans about the future

  • Constantly revised and reworked as our perspectives on ourselves change and grow

  • Draws on cultural types of narratives to construct personal story – so life story can vary by culture, for example

Mcadams life story measurement techniques
McAdams’ Life Story Measurement Techniques Example

  • Peak Experience

  • Low Point

  • Earliest Memory

  • Turning Point

  • Significant Childhood Memory

  • Significant Adolescent Memory

  • Significant Adult Memory

  • Future Scene

Try it yourself
Try it yourself Example

  • Think of a peak experience

  • Describe what happened, who was involved, what you were thinking and feeling, what this scene says about who you were, are or might be.

Underpinnings of the life story key elements in its development mcadams
Underpinnings of the Life Story – Key Elements in Its Development (McAdams)

  • Basic intentionality and theory of mind in young child

  • Personal experiences and reminiscing in family as sources of storytelling skill

  • Learning of culturally specific story structure/scripts by child

  • Making stories coherent – adolescent cognitive capacities for causal and thematic reasoning help to explain experiences

  • The life review: considering the life story and its outcomes in later life (ego integrity issues of Erikson)

Personality model interactions of the life story and dispositional traits mcadams et al 2004
Personality Model: Interactions of the Life Story and Dispositional Traits (McAdams et al., 2004)

  • Openness to experience was Big Five trait that most clearly predicted story-telling style in this study

  • How would you think it might relate?

The life story and personal concerns feelings of personal control braun schiffman 1982
The Life Story and Personal Concerns – Feelings of Personal Control (Braun, Schiffman, 1982)

Ego integrity and the life review wong and watt 1991
Ego Integrity and the Life Review (Wong and Watt, 1991) Personal Control (Braun, Schiffman, 1982)

  • Butler argued that rehearsing and reviewing one’s life (and life story) is important to last phase in Erikson theory – older adults often do this – a narrative function

  • Part of a somewhat more “inner focus” on the self – but just doing a life review isn’t always beneficial

  • Wong & Watt found that certain types of review are associated with positive sense of “ego integrity”, especially integrative and instrumental stories that put together long-term goals and plans and current issues

  • In contrast, “obsessive” reviews of past negative events, guilt, ruminations are negatively associated with feelings of ego integrity