Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Kevin Carlson

Reader 2

Judith LeMaster

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Rights Information

© 2016 Ariana Turner


Life-stories offer an approach to understanding personality processes within a larger, developmental context. This study examines the role that one area of a person’s larger context (namely romantic relationships) plays in that person’s life-story. Specifically, the study examines whether this role changes over the lifespan. Nineteen students from a consortium of colleges in southern California, and an equal number of older adults living in a nearby retirement community, were interviewed about their romantic relationship history. The interview was semi-structured and asked participants about past and current relationships, and their most meaningful relationship overall. The interviews were coded for the themes of agency, redemption, and contamination, reported self-growth, and an additional variable called unprompted discussion of sexuality that was added based on a series of unexpected occurrences during the interviews. The results showed significant differences in both agency and unprompted discussion of sexuality between the romantic relationship narratives of young and older adults. However, no significant differences were found between the age groups on any of the other three variables, or between the sexes on any of the five variables. The results not only help us to better understand the ways in which our stories about our romantic relationships change across the lifespan, but also suggest significant differences between how younger and older adults think about love and sex.