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

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McAdams and his colleagues, while remaining somewhat committed to the idea of midlife salience of generativity, have recently recognized the difficulty of differentiating between generativity as a personal attribute, which may become particularly salient in middle adulthood as a consequence of social timing, and generativity as a relatively distinct developmental stage . . . To this end, they have begun an intensive study of adults characterized as generative, irrespective of age.

While this predicted broadening of perspective on generativity was offered more than 15 years ago, we see little evidence of it appearing in the subsequent literature; we believe that the four role models of generativity being offered in this set of essays begin to fulfill this prediction and potential.

The second way in which we use Stage comes from the world of theater. The “stage” is where drama takes place: There is the front of the stage and the back of the stage. There are certainly actors in the spotlight and other actors operating outside the spotlight. And there are some actors off stage. We make extensive use of this meaning of “stage” in part because the psychologist, Erik Eriksen, who was one of the first to write about adult development stages, was himself an actor. He was fully aware of this second way in which the word “stage” can be used.

Throughout our set of essays, we will draw on this analogy to theater and will describe four roles of generativity that can be played by anyone, at any point in their life. While, as McAdams has suggested, a specific expression of generativity might be more commonly found at a particular point in our life as a result of societal expectations (“social timing” in the words of McAdams), we will argue that anyone can be generative in one way or another at any time in their life. While we don’t deal specifically with cross-cultural comparisons in this set of essays, the emerging of generativity during various stages in life might be particularly the case if adult development in a variety of world cultures is explored.

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