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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The “stage” is the setting in which we engage the generativity role. This role undoubtedly is influenced by changes in the way we think and feel, and the emerging needs and motivations in our mature life.  But generativity is more than this. It is about playing a role in relationship to other people. It is about playing a caring role. It is about action, not just thinking good thoughts. It is about feeling gratified in having done something that tangibly benefits people.

With this articulation of our perspective on the roles of generativity as active engagements in the world, we identify four roles of generativity that we believe are played-out in our lives:

Role One: raising children, enacting a project, or performing a specific job in an organization.

Role Two: mentoring, leading, and leaving a legacy inside an organization.

Role Three: leaving a legacy outside family and organization by fostering and ensuring the maintenance of a tradition and/or preserving heritage.

Role Four: working on behalf of a community or broader society, ensuring the welfare and prosperity of people living in this community or society.

While we will spend considerable time exemplifying each of these four roles, we begin with a simple illustration: The first role of generativity is tangibly demonstrated in the offering of food to our family. We have engaged in a project (cooking a meal) that will benefit our children and other family members by providing nutrition, gratifying their senses, and creating a setting in which familial conversations can take place. Meals often provide sanctuaries in which certain kinds of words can be stated and in which nonverbal communication is prominent. Many religions make use of food and special meals to portray, honor, or invoke spiritual presence in a family setting.

So, what happens when we want to convey to the next generation what we have learned about cooking? We prepare and distribute recipes. If we are particularly ambitious and are skilled and knowledgeable cooks, we write cookbooks or even host a cooking show on a cable channel. The goal is to spread and sustain our knowledge by teaching the next generation or our current generation. This is the second role of generativity.

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