Previous research has shown that talking about highly significant experiences in more elaborative ways and with greater meaning-making is related to better identity development in emerging adults (McLean & Pratt, 2006). Expressing personally significant experiences through narratives allows individuals to construct coherent autobiographical stories about the self, connecting their past, present, and future selves into a coherent whole, which ultimately contributes to healthy identity development (Pennebaker & Seagal, 1999). In this research, we examined the Covid-19 narratives of college students in relation to identity development. Data was collected from 218 emerging adult college students, ages 18 and above, both males and females. Nine narrative prompts asked participants to reflect on the meaning of their Covid-19 experiences, e.g., “Describe your most difficult experience during the pandemic. Describe in detail what happened or is happening (including when it happened, your feelings, and who was involved).” Participants also filled out questionnaires measuring their identity development and identity distress. Narratives were coded for elaboration and resolution on a 0- to 3-point scale, with 0 being no elaboration/resolution and 3 being high elaboration/positive resolution. Narratives were also coded for level and type of stress and coping. We hypothesized that those with greater elaboration and resolution, better coping, and less stress in their narratives would show greater identity development and less identity distress. The results did not support the hypothesis, but we found other compelling results from exploratory analyses examining the type of stress and coping in relation to identity development. These results pointed to the importance of narrative processing of highly significant experiences, in this case, the Covid-19 pandemic, for continued advancement in identity development in emerging adults.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Zaman, Widaad


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Sciences





Access Status

Open Access

Release Date


Included in

Psychology Commons