The concept of generativity becomes more and more relevant as we move into the later decades of life. The originator of the concept of generativity was Erik Erikson, a German-American psychologist, and psychoanalyst best known for developing a life stage theory of individual psychological and social development.  Erikson theorized that we can organize the lifespan into eight psychosocial stages of development. Each stage is characterized by a developmental task that must be resolved before movement to the next developmental stage.  There are both positive and negative outcomes possible for each stage.


The eight stages correspond to general age ranges from infancy through adulthood. The eight developmental milestones include, Stage 1: trust vs. mistrust; Stage 2: autonomy vs. shame; Stage 3: initiative vs. guilt; Stage 4: industry vs. inferiority; Stage 5: identity vs. role confusion; Stage 6: intimacy vs. isolation; Stage 7: generativity vs. stagnation; and Stage 8: ego integrity vs. despair.  In popular culture, Erikson is best known as the originator of the idea of “identity crisis” which relates to Stage 5 of his model (identity vs. role confusion).


Stage 7 of his model, Generativity vs Stagnation, refers to the development in adulthood of a concern for people besides oneself and one’s family, that usually develops during middle age, (around ages 40-65).  Generativity involves our emerging motivation to nurture and guide younger people and contribute to the well-being of future generations. As older women, we are actively involved in the developmental tasks of Stages 7 and 8 or Erikson’s model.  Today let’s talk about our struggles and experiences with Stage 7, Generativity vs. Stagnation.


  • Was there a specific age or decade in life when you first noticed a desire to mentor or nurture the next generation? Have you found ways to help younger people navigate some of the life challenges you have faced?
  • What is your definition of generativity? What form or forms does generativity take?
  • Are you currently in a period of generativity or stagnation?
  • In what ways have you contributed in a generative manner to people, local and world challenges, children or other young people and through what methods or activities have you made your contributions?
  • Discuss one or two experiences in your life when you have struggled with Generativity vs. Stagnation and how you resolved those struggles.

For more information about Erik Erikson’s theories of developmental psychology, you may wish to look at the following websites: or  and consider reading two of his many books, Identity and the life cycle and Vital Involvement in Old Age.