Home Concepts Adult Development Generativity Two: Expanding Perspective and Actions about Deep Care

Generativity Two: Expanding Perspective and Actions about Deep Care

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William Bergquist and Gary Quehl

So far in our exploration, we have been presenting a new narrative about the nature and dynamics of generativity. In this essay, we rely on a script that has already been written by the original playwright, Erik Erikson—and by subsequent authors and researchers in the field of adult development. Later, we will expand on that text by investigating the various ways in which Generativity Two is played out in several different relationships, turning to our own research findings about Generativity Two, relying primarily on the 100 interviews conducted with Emerging and Senior Sage leaders in Nevada County, California.

At the heart of Generativity Two is an expanding perspective about deep care and the engagement of actions that are aligned with it. We consider this expanding perspective and set of actions to be a result of our formulation of Generativity One; we are generative when we raise our children, and when we initiate a project that is important to us. Both of these clearly are primary examples of deep care. It is when we move into Generativity Two (and later into Generativity Three and Four), that we reach out through deep caring even further in both time and space.

What’s in a Name: “Generativity”

The term “generativity” was first used by Erik Erikson to identify an ongoing concern for people besides one’s self and one’s family. This concern typically develops during mid-life and, according to Erikson, involves a need to nurture and guide younger people in a supervisory, sponsoring, or mentoring role. Erikson’s generativity is about contributing to the next generation, as well as leaving a legacy in the organizations with which we work as successful mid-life leaders.

Erikson’s basic idea about generativity has been expanded and probed in great depth by other adult development theorists and researcher—most notably Dan McAdams. We will review his work shortly, but must first note that the term “generativity” is used in many other ways—at least three of which are indirectly relevant to Erikson’s use of the term. All three of these alternatives seem to enhance our understanding of Erik’s generativity by providing a focus on innovation and creativity, sources of energy, and foundational processes in a specific system.

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