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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The concept of self in a life-span, life event context De Vries, Brian


This dissertation advanced a life story model of the self-concept, linking the presently understood past and the anticipated future with the experienced present of the individual story-teller. The central components of this model were identified as the story structure (defined as integrative complexity, an information-processing variable) and story content (defined as the significant life events recalled and anticipated by the participants). The nuclear thesis of this dissertation examined the relationship between these two components in various forms and explored their association with other (individual difference) variables. Participants were 30 males and 30 females drawn in equal numbers from three age groups (young, middle, and later adulthood). These participants completed an extensive questionnaire which entailed a written self-evaluation (which was coded for complexity), the identification and evaluation of significant life events (on scales of event pleasantness, outcome desirability, and event intensity, responsibility, adjustment, and anticipation), and the completion of a series of individual difference measures (life satisfaction, attitudes toward aging, repression-sensitization, and self-esteem). Participants were also interviewed regarding the personal significance of each event, discussions which were coded for integrative complexity and a measure of self in relation to others. The major results indicated that the complexity of self-evaluation (and not chronological age) was associated (curvilinearly) with the number of identified events (with low and high complexity characteristic of fewer events than moderate complexity). A similar pattern emerged between life satisfaction and this measure of complexity, but complexity was not related to any of the other individual difference variables. Unpleasant and undesirable events were discussed in more complex terms than were pleasant, desirable events. There was a similar pattern for high versus low intensity events. However, low responsibility, low adjustment, and low anticipation were associated with greater complexity than were events high on these dimensions. Women identified a greater number of events and discussed them more in terms of connectedness with significant others than did men. These results are presented in the context of the life story and their implications for this model of the self-concept are discussed.

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