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Constructive developmental analysis of autobiographical writing

Thomas Olafur Hodgson, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study was designed to analyze the text of autobiographical writing using three stage theories of constructive developmental psychology. The writing samples examined in this study were twenty (20) "prior learning portfolios", work-related autobiographies of adult students seeking credit for life experience. The students were undergraduates enrolled in the University Without Walls program of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The developmental variables employed in the study were social perspective-taking as defined by Basseches (1984), subject/object balance from the self psychology of Kegan (1982), and self-knowledge development as discussed by Weinstein and Alschuler (1985). The writing analysis was patterned after the oral interview scoring processes commonly used in determining cognitive developmental stage levels: codable items in the text were reviewed to obtain an overall stage score for each of the three developmental models. The developmental scores were then compared with academic credit awards assigned to the portfolios. Significant results were found in statistical analyses correlating increases in credit award with increases in stage scores for social perspective taking and subject-object balance. Other significant findings included a positive correlation between social perspective-taking and subject-object balance. Moreover, increases in the external knowledge of another's internal processes were matched by increases in one's own self-knowledge. The study's success in conducting constructive developmental analyses of narrative writing has potentially positive implications for lifespan developmental psychologists, educators, and writers.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Adult education|Continuing education|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Hodgson, Thomas Olafur, "Constructive developmental analysis of autobiographical writing" (1990). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9110153.