Motivational and Affective Themes in the Life Stories of Underserved Emerging Adults: A Pilot Study


  • William L. Dunlop
  • Majse Lind
  • Nicole Harake
  • David Lee
  • Angeles Sedano
  • Colin Ring
  • Jordan P. Davis


Aging, Redemption, Narrative Identity, Depression, Emotional Dysregulation


Narrative identity is an internal and evolving life story, constructed in the interest of attaining purpose and personal persistence. Here, we report the results of a pilot study examining the narrative identities of a sample of underserved emerging adults (n = 19) currently receiving social services. Participants, the majority of which were ethnic minorities, provided five self-definitional autobiographical stories during a semi-structured life story interview. Stories were reliably quantified for agency (themes of self-mastery and competence), communion (themes of intimacy and connectedness), redemption (stories that began negatively and ended positively) and contamination (stories that began positively and ended negatively). Across two time points, agency was negatively associated with depressive symptoms, and redemption tended to be negatively associated with emotional dysregulation. Relations between narratives and psychological well-being were summarized via the illustration of four qualitative case summaries embodying these broader trends.