The Intergenerational Self: An Exploration in Theory and Empirical Research Open Access

Merrill, Natalie Ann (2015)

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Family stories are shared regularly and provide lessons and insights for younger generations in ways that may contribute to well-being and identity development (Pratt & Fiese, 2004; Fivush, Bohanek, & Duke, 2008). Specifically, intergenerational narratives, the stories that parents tell children from their own childhood, provide a special opportunity for parents to impart life lessons and model meaning-making processes for their children as their children are developing their own narrative abilities (Fivush & Merrill, in press). Thus, these stories have the potential to become part of the many narratives that are important to the child's own understanding of self (Bohanek et al., 2009; Fivush, Bohanek, & Marin, 2010). Fivush, Bohanek, and Duke (2008) proposed the idea of the "Intergenerational Self," that is, that developing individuals use family stories to come to understand how the self, and their own personal histories, are situated among a larger familial history. Up to this point, there has been limited empirical work exploring this theoretical construct, and the purpose of this dissertation is to explicate further the idea of the Intergenerational Self both theoretically and empirically in three manuscripts. The first is a theoretical review which details the ways in which intergenerational narratives can influence the psychosocial development of individuals at two key stages in the life course, adolescence and midlife. The second article presents relations between knowledge of family history, identity development, psychological well-being, and parental relationship quality in emerging adults. The third article provides an empirical examination of intergenerational narratives, personal narratives, and narratives about friends in relation to identity and well-being in emerging adulthood. Together, these findings provide support for the link between intergenerational narratives, identity development and psychological well-being, but they reveal a more nuanced picture that these relations depend upon parental relationship quality and gender.

Table of Contents

General Introduction. 1

Theoretical Overview. 2

Definition and Frequency of Intergenerational Narratives. 2

Relations to Well-being and Identity. 5

Issues that Remain. 8

Summary of Articles. 9

Article 1. 9

Article 2. 10

Article 3. 10

Article Formatting. 11

Footnotes. 12

Figure 1. 13

Article 1: Intergenerational Narratives and Identity Across Development. 14

Abstract. 15

Introduction. 16

Theoretical Foundations. 18

Narrative Identity. 21

Narrative identity formation in adolescence. 22

Generativity and narrative identity in middle adulthood. 23

Intergenerational Narratives in Sociocultural Context. 25

Personal narratives in social cultural context. 26

Stories of shared family experiences. 28

Intergenerational Narratives. 29

"Telling" and Expressions of Generativity. 31

Goals of telling intergenerational narratives. 33

Intergenerational Narrative Identity. 36

Intergenerational Narratives and Well-being. 44

Future Directions. 50

Well-being. 51

Gender. 52

Culture. 53

Developmental Stage and Family Characteristics. 56

Conclusions. 58

References. 59

Article 2: Knowledge of Family History and Relations to Identity, Psychological Well-being, and Relationship Quality. 75

Abstract. 76

Introduction. 77

Hypotheses Summary. 82

Method. 82

Participants. 82

Procedure. 83

Materials. 83

Relationship Quality with Parents and Peers. 84

Well-being. 84

Identity Development. 85

Results. 85

Descriptive Information. 85

Relations among Family History Knowledge, Well-being, and Identity. 85

Relations to Quality of Parent and Peer Relationships. 87

Discussion. 88

References. 94

Tables. 98

Table 1. 98

Table 2. 99

Table 3. 100

Table 4. 101

Footnote. 102

Article 3: Perspective-taking and Self-event Connection in Intergenerational Narratives: Relations to Gender, Identity, and Well-being. 103

Abstract. 104

Introduction. 105

Perspective-taking in Narratives. 106

Self-event Connections. 110

Summary of Hypotheses. 112

Method. 114

Participants. 114

Procedure. 114

Narrative instructions. 115

Questionnaire measures. 116

Well-being. 116

Identity Achievement. 117

Narrative Coding. 117

Perspective-taking. 117

Self-event Connection. 117

Results. 118

Affect. 119

Cognition. 119

Self-event Connections. 119

Relations between Narrative Variables, Well-being, and Identity. 120

Discussion. 121

Limitations. 126

Conclusion. 128

References. 129

Footnotes. 136

Tables. 137

Table 1. 137

Table 2. 138

Figure 1. 139

Supplemental Materials. 140

Sample Narratives. 140

Coding Manuals. 143

Self-event Connection Coding. 143

Perspective-taking Coding. 146

General Discussion. 149

Summary of Articles. 149

Integrating Results across the Articles. 151

Limitations and Future Directions. 153

References. 156

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