Erikson’s Theory: Stage 7

This post is the seventh in a series about Erik Erikson’s Stage Theory of Psychosocial Development. If you would like to know more about this series, go here. To see the second post on stages 1 and 2, go here. To see the third post on stage 3, go here. To see the fourth post on stage 4, go here. To see the fifth post on stage 5, go here. To see the sixth post on stage 6, go here.

Stage 7: Generativity vs. Stagnation

This stage typically occurs between age 31 and 60 (adulthood).  The main focus of this stage is becoming a productive member of society.  This is defined by procreation and taking responsibility for caring for one’s own children and the children of others.  

In addition to getting married and raising children, this stage is characterized by being a contributing member of society and fully accepting responsibility for developing the next generation. Passing on the cultural norms and values not only to your own children but in an altruistic way helps to develop society as a whole.

Generativity refers to being productive and creative. Whether it’s creating yourself and those around you or producing new and innovative products that ultimately help society, generativity is about continuing to improve and always working to become something new, something better and realizing one’s full potential. Generativity is a product of a well-developed ego (or self-concept) and the ability to have healthy intimate relationships with others.    

The opposite of generativity is self-absorption, stagnation and underdeveloped ego strength.   Stagnation is when a person is too self-absorbed and self-indulgent to care for the needs of others or society.  In the unsuccessful completion of this stage, generativity and productivity have given way to self-centeredness and provincialism and the most basic strength of adulthood, caring for others, has been set aside.   

Although there are lots of therapeutic approaches to helping someone stuck in stagnation and self-absorption, one approach might be to begin by addressing ego strength.  Feeling good about one’s self and being happy with who we are is vitally important to being able to develop and maintain intimate relationships.  Generativity is built out of hope for a better future and the confidence to produce that future.       

Posted in: Awareness, Counseling, RL Turner

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