Consistency and stability of narrative coherence: An examination of personal narrative as a domain of adult personality

Theodore E.A. Waters, Christin Köber, K. Lee Raby, Tilmann Habermas, Robyn Fivush

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Narrative theories of personality assume that individual differences in coherence reflect consistent and stable differences in narrative style rather than situational and event-specific differences (e.g., McAdams & McLean, 2013). However, this assumption has received only modest empirical attention. Therefore, we present two studies testing the theoretical assumption of a consistent and stable coherent narrative style. Method: Study 1 focused on the two most traumatic and most positive life events of 224 undergraduates. These event-specific narratives were coded for three coherence dimensions: theme, context, and chronology (NaCCs; Reese et al., 2011). Study 2 focused on two life narratives told 4 years apart by 98 adults, which were coded for thematic, causal, and temporal coherence (Köber, Schmiedek, & Habermas, 2015). Results: Confirmatory factor analysis in both studies revealed that individual differences in the coherence ratings were best explained by a model including both narrative style and event-/narration-specific latent variables. Conclusions: The ways in which we tell autobiographical narratives reflect a stable feature of individual differences. Further, they suggest that this stable element of personality is necessary, but not sufficient, in accounting for specific event and life narrative coherence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-162
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • autobiographical memory
  • coherence
  • life story
  • narrative
  • personality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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