Home Concepts Adult Development II. Four Ways to Be Generative

II. Four Ways to Be Generative

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William Bergquist and Gary Quehl

We express and experience generativity through the enactment of four different, though interrelated, deep caring roles. First, there is the generativity that we experience as parents— even when our children are grown-up and we are no longer their primary caretakers. Indeed, caring about our children does not fade away as we grow older; rather, it takes on a new form and is accompanied by the delight that comes with seeing our children succeed in their own lives and finding their own distinctive identity. The expression of this first mode of generativity need not be limited to the care for children we have raised from birth. We all know of extraordinary men and women who have taken care of children via foster-care, adoption, or serving as a nurturing uncle or grandparent. One of our dear friends joined with his gay partner to raise a boy from a broken home—a dramatic example of this first type of generativity.

Second, there is the generativity that comes with caring about young men and women who are not part of our immediate or extended family. This type of generativity often is engaged when we are older and in a position of some power or influence in an organization. We care for the next generation of leaders or the next generation of craftsmen and artisans in our field. We often are generative in this second way through our role as mentors. We run interference for younger people or for those who look up to us. We collaborate with them on projects, such as writing a book together with a newcomer in the field. We serve as role models that new people in our company emulate through job performance, personal values, and even life style. We serve as mentors when we listen carefully to younger people talk about their problems and accomplishments. We serve as mentors when we encourage our protégés to take risks or to push beyond initial achievements. We sponsor younger people by inviting them into our world, our exclusive club or inner group.

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