Home Concepts Adult Development IV. Setting the Stage: The Four Roles of Deep Caring and Generativity

IV. Setting the Stage: The Four Roles of Deep Caring and Generativity

9 min read

William Bergquist and Gary Quehl

[Note: The complete book (Caring Deeply: Engaging the Four Roles of Life-Fulfilling Generativity) is available for purchase. Use the following link:  Caring Deeply.]

We are ready to “set the stage” for our in-depth analysis of each deep caring role. We begin this analysis by turning to the word “stage” itself–a word that has several different meanings when the nature of deep caring is being addressed. We use this concept in two different, though related, ways. The first is most often embraced by developmental psychologists, where Stage refers to a phase in a person’s life – like the stages of launching a rocket into space. We propose that each of the four deep caring roles of generativity is prominent at a particular stage in our lives.

In taking this stance, we are diverging from the primary focus that most developmental researchers and theorists take regarding deep caring and generativity. It is usually conceived as a specific developmental stage occurring in mid-life. However, a major researcher on generativity, Dan McAdams, suggests that generativity can occur at any point in the life cycle, depending primarily on the culture in which a person lives. He concludes, nevertheless, that generativity is primarily a mid-life phenomenon and the focuses primary on this point in life when conducting his own research on generativity. According to McAdams, Hart and Maruna (1998, p. 17):

Rather than viewing generativity as a discrete developmental stage in the life cycle, we prefer to conceive of it as subject to developmental expectations and assumptions about time and timing that vary somewhat from one society to the next. . . .  Nevertheless, we believe that Erikson was right in situating generativity, in a general fashion, in the middle of the human life span.

It is interesting to note that, at the same time, Cohler, Hostetler and Boxer (1998, p. 275) believe McAdams and colleagues might be considering a broader perspective on generativity:

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