Post 1: Abstract

People turn to personal narratives when other aspects of identity are weakening as a way to increase a sense of self (Fivush, 2018). To that end, narrative meaning-making has been shown to unlock a deeper, more contextualized layer of personality than simply a person’s traits and lasting goals, which are shaped by the different roles and experiences from participants’ life stories (Booker et al., 2018; Bluck & Habermas, 2001; McAdams, 1995). Particularly, when an individual is able to create meaning from an event that was difficult or jarring, it can serve as a way to solidify their sense of self (Pals, 2006; Habermas & Köber, 2015; Booker et al., 2018). When young adults acknowledge their growth from adversity, they are able to take the time to healthily process events and transgressions that have occurred and move beyond any lasting hardships an event may have created (Baumeister, Stillwell, & Heatherton, 1994; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004; Pals, 2006; Pasupathi, Staudinger, & Baltes, 2001). It follows that engaging in autobiographical reasoning is a crucial part of reasoning out the life story and creating an identity (Banks & Salmon, 2013).

Additionally, research has found that it’s important that individuals be able to decontextualize, or “smooth out,” past negative experiences (Routledge et al., 2012). One way to rewrite that past is through nostalgia, through which individuals remember events but with a warmth that may not have been present during the initial event; it serves as a bridge for the narrator connect the person they are now to the person they were at the time of the event (Wildschut et al., 2006; Chandler, 2003). Thus, in adults, nostalgia tends to positively impact well-being and self-concept, and self-continuity nostalgia serves as a critical resource in processing and coping with negative emotions and memories. Nostalgia plays an important role in people’s ability to reason through difficult events and create a stronger sense of identity (Sedikides et al., 2008). The emotion always arises when an individual narrates about the past, and tends to help individuals remember events in a more positive rather than negative way (Wildschut et al., 2006).

This summer, I will be joining Dr. Elaine Reese at the University of Otago to work on a longitudinal study of parent-child reminiscing, which aims to address whether or not now-adult children of parents who reminisced more elaboratively now recall their own pasts with nostalgia and whether or not nostalgia is a positive coping strategy for these individuals. Additionally, drawing on the longitudinal foundations of the study, the study hopes to determine at what age adolescents begin to use nostalgia in describing difficult life events.



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Booker, J. A., Sales, J. M., Brakke, K., & Fivush, R. (2018). Narrative Displays of Personal Growth and Well-Being among College and Community Adults. Manuscript submitted for publication.

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Fivush, R. (2018). Family stories: The social and cultural development of memory, narrative, and the autobiographical self. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Fivush, R., Reese, E., & Booker, J. A. (in press). Developmental foundations of the narrative author in early mother-child reminiscing. In D. McAdams, R. Shiner and J. Tackett (Eds.), Handbook on Personality Development. NY: Guilford Press.

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Reese, E. (2017). Origins of earliest memories. Manuscript under review.

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