Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz Previously Published Works bannerUC Santa Cruz

When remembering is not enough: Reflecting on self-defining memories in late adolescence


This study examined which kinds of self-defining memories show spontaneous references to larger meanings, and listener responses to two kinds of meaning-lessons and insights. Narratives of three self-defining memories and episodes of telling the memories to others were collected from each of 168 late adolescents (M age=19). Narratives were coded for event type (relationship, mortality, achievement, and leisure) and for references to tension and to meaning (lesson or insight). Narratives of memorable episodes of having told the memories to others were coded for listener response (positive or negative). References to meaning emerged in one-fourth of the memory narratives, and meaning was more common for self-defining memory narratives that contained references to tension. Memories that reportedly had not been told to others in the past showed the same proportion of meaning as did memories that had been told to others (23%), with insights more prevalent than lessons. For memories that had been told to others, insights were more likely to be accepted by listeners than lessons. Implications were discussed for understanding the development of meaning in self-defining memories and the collaborative construction of identity.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View