Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development

pp 695-696

Generativity versus Stagnation (Erikson’s Middle Age)

  • Sarah PooleAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Emory University
  • , John SnareyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Emory University


Generativity is psychologist Erik H. Erikson’s term for the primary developmental task of the seventh stage of the life cycle – caring for and contributing to the life of the next generation. The developmental challenge of adults in their middle years is to be procreative, productive, and creative and to overcome a pervading mood of self-absorption or personal stagnation. Generativity includes any activity that contributes to the development of others and to the life of the generations. The successful realization of generativity gives rise to the ego strength that Erikson described as the virtue of care.


Erik H. Erikson viewed generativity as the principal task of middle adulthood and used the term to highlight the adult’s role “in establishing and guiding the next generation” ([3], p. 267). Erikson summed up the stages in the following way: “In youth you find out what you care to do and who you care to be – even in changing roles. In young adul ...

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