Lost and Found Possible Selves, Subjective Well-Being, and Ego Development in Divorced Women


  • This research was supported by NIMH Award MH54142. Portions of this study were presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Personality Preconference in Nashville, TN, January 2000. We thank Camille Patterson, Sonia Sethi, Jeff White, Tom Kennedy, Erik Day, Summer Noelle Smith, and Kelly Ruff for their assistance in transcription, content analysis, and coding.

concerning this article should be addressed to Laura A. King, Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri, 210 McAlester Hall, Columbia, MO 65211. Electronic mail may be sent to kingla@missouri.edu


Abstract Divorced women, who had been married for an average of 22 years, wrote narrative descriptions of their best possible future selves before the divorce (retrospectively) and after the divorce, rated the salience of these narratives, and completed measures of SWB and ED. Independent raters coded the narratives for amount of elaboration (i.e., vivid detail). The salience of the lost possible self was negatively related to SWB while the salience of the current possible self was positively related to SWB. Elaboration of the found possible self was associated with concurrent ED as well as ED two years later. Lost self elaboration interacted with time since divorce to predict ED, controlling for age and Time 1 ED. Results are interpreted as indicating that, while happiness may require us to avoid thinking about what might have been, maturity might require an awareness of the losses and sacrifices of adulthood.