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Parents' traces in life: When and how parents are presented in spontaneous life narratives


Journal of Personality

Published online on


Objective Although parents are acknowledged to be a part of their children's personality and narrative identity and to remain important across the life span, narrative personality research has not yet explored the spontaneous presentation of parents in life stories. Therefore, this study examined longitudinally the place given to parents when crafting one's life narrative and how this changes with age. Furthermore, in contrast to prior studies, we focused on spontaneous mentions of parents. Method We investigated how often parents are mentioned in life narratives of six age groups spanning from age 8 to 69, how the parental relationship is evaluated, whether narrators express understanding of their parents, and whether they respond to parental values. Results People of all ages dedicated a substantial part of their life narratives to their parents and evaluated their relationship with them in an increasingly differentiated manner. Parents were increasingly perceived as individuals beyond their parental nurturing role. Until late in life, individuals reflect on values and opinions that were transferred to them by their parents. Conclusions Parents hold a consistent place in life narratives, emphasizing their importance for narrative identity. Results are discussed in terms of lifelong child–parent relationships. Directions for future research are outlined.