Stories of Regret in Late Midlife and their Relation to Psychosocial Adaptation

Jul 1, 2020 | NURJ x EXPO 2020 Poster

Joy Hsu

AdviserDan McAdams
Subject: Communication
DOI: 10.21985/n2-73bp-5s53

Joy is a graduating third year who double majored in Communication Studies and Psychology, with a certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications and a module in Health Communications. She first got involved in research at Northwestern through the Early Lab Reward Experience Award, which allowed her to serve as a research assistant in the Health Communication Interaction Design Lab. A co-recipient of the Hunt Award for the best Honors Thesis in the Psychology Department, she is incredibly thankful for all the wonderful opportunities NU has provided for her academic journey thus far. Some of her favorite memories at Northwestern include the time she has spent with Asian American InterVarsity and WildCHAT.


Previous research indicates that regret is a painful experience for people but often leads to enhanced self meaning and personal growth. In this study, we employ a narrative approach to explore the architecture and coping methods of regret experiences in late midlife adults. We relate variation in regret narratives told by 163 adults aged 55 to 57 to psychosocial adaptation, conceptualized in terms of psychological well-being and Erikson’s adult-developmental factors of generativity and ego-integrity. Two coders analyzed interview transcripts of regret narratives for numerous content categories, including type of regret, source of regret, degree of resolution (coming to terms with, making peace with, solving the problem of) the regret, and hopefulness for the future. The qualitative results illustrate the diversity and richness of regret experiences in late midlife and flesh out the expression of 12 different coping methods for dealing with negative life experiences. The quantitative results provide empirical support for the hypothesis that degree of regret resolution is positively associated with overall psychosocial adaptation. Findings are discussed in terms of the role of the bidirectional relationship between regret resolution and psychosocial adaptation, as well as the role of regret experiences more generally in life stories and in late midlife development.