In this paper we propose a model for examining personal identity development that moves attention from a relatively exclusive examination of the individual to an examination of the intersection between self and society. We propose that a master narrative model of identity development allows researchers to: (a) align the study of culture and individual on the same metric of narrative, (b) investigate the processes of negotiating personal and cultural narratives, the latter of which are embedded within the structures of society, and (c) investigate the internalization of those structures in personal identities. In laying out this model we define a narrative approach to identity development, five principles for defining master narratives (ubiquity, utility, invisibility, rigidity, and their compulsory nature), three types of master narratives (life course, structural, and episodic), and case examples of each type. This model brings attention to the interaction between self and society, as well as to the constraints on individual agency to construct a personal identity. We conclude by raising questions that emerge out of this framework that we hope will inspire future work on the relationship between self and society in the study of identity development.

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