Intimacy in Young Adults' Narratives of Romance and Friendship Predicts Eriksonian Generativity: A Mixed Method Analysis


  • Portions of this research were presented at the 4th Annual Conference on Emerging Adulthood, held October 29–30, 2009, in Atlanta, Georgia. The authors thank Elise Bisson and Charlene Esposto for their invaluable help with the inter-rater reliability coding.

concerning this article should be addressed to Sean P. Mackinnon, Department of Psychology, Dalhousie University, Life Sciences Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 4J1. Email:


ABSTRACT A quantitative and qualitative study tested Erikson's ego developmental hypotheses regarding the positive relationship between generativity and intimacy. At age 26, participants (N = 100) told 2 stories about “relationship-defining moments,” one about a romantic partner, and another about a same-sex friend. Levels of relationship intimacy were coded from these narratives. “True love” and “true friendship” themes arose as the most prototypical, highly intimate stories. Romantic intimacy and friendship intimacy as coded from narratives each contributed uniquely to the prediction of generative concern; as intimacy in each domain increased, so did generative concern. This relationship remained statistically significant, even when controlling for gender, current romantic relationship status, subjective well-being, optimism, and depressive symptoms. Results suggest that our “relationship-defining moment” narrative task is a useful tool for examining development in emerging adulthood and that intimacy may be an important precursor to generative concern in early adulthood, consistent with Erikson's model.