Feminism, Gender, and Agentic and Communal Themes in Narrative Identity

Abstract

Individuals create a sense of self-continuity by constructing a narrative identity that integrates their past experiences with an imagined future. Previous research indicates that men are more likely than women to include agentic themes in their narrative identities, whereas women are more likely than men to include communal themes. The present investigation examined whether feminist identity would moderate the effects of gender on the degree to which participants included agentic and communal themes in their narrative identities. U.S. undergraduates (n = 170) completed measures of feminist beliefs in the laboratory, and then later wrote six essays describing various chapters of their life story as a measure of narrative identity. We coded each essay for agentic and communal thematic content. Consistent with previous research, gender predicted thematic content of essays; however, the gender effect on agentic themes was moderated by the degree to which individuals identified as feminists. For individuals lower in feminist identity, agentic thematic content of essays was consistent with previously reported gender differences; however, for individuals higher in feminist identity, the relationship between gender and agentic thematic content was attenuated. The effect of feminist identity on thematic content was maintained even when controlling for self-reported agentic traits.

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Correspondence to Kristi A. Costabile.

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The manuscript entitled “Feminism, Gender, and Agentic and Communal Themes in Narrative Identity” that was submitted to Sex Roles was not funded. The authors have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

The research was collected using human participants. This investigation was approved by the authors’ university Institutional Review Board prior to data collection.

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Boytos, A.S., Costabile, K.A., Austin, A.B. et al. Feminism, Gender, and Agentic and Communal Themes in Narrative Identity. Sex Roles 83, 54–63 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-019-01089-x

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Keywords

  • Feminism
  • Gender
  • Self-concept
  • Identity
  • Narratives