Loevingers Stages of Ego Development

Jane Loevinger's (1976) stage theory of ego development is based on Erikson's theory of psychosocial stages in addition to Lawrence Kohlberg's (1969, 1976) conception of six stages of moral development. According to Loevinger, the ego is the principal organizing process of the personality, the integrator of morals, values, goals, and cognition. Shaped by the dynamic interaction of the person and the environment, the ego develops and its integrating functions change in a sequence of eight stages, beginning in infancy and progressively building on previous stages. Loevinger describes six stages of ego development in adulthood:

1. Conformist: Obedience (absolute conformity) to external social rules.

2. Conscientious-Conformist: Separation of norms and goals; realization that acts affect others.

3. Conscientious: Beginning of self-evaluated standards; understanding of the true complexity of the world.

4. Individualistic: Respect for individuality and recognition that the process of acting is more important than the outcome.

5. Autonomous: Respect for each person's individuality; high tolerance for ambiguity with conflicting needs within oneself and others.

6. Integrated: Resolution of inner conflicts.

No specific age range is associated with a particular stage; it may occur at any time during adulthood. At each stage, four areas are important to developmental progress:

• Character development: The standards and goals of the person.

• Interpersonal styles: The person's pattern of relations with others.

• Conscious preoccupations: The most important things on the person's mind.

• Cognitive style: The characteristic way in which the person thinks.

In part because of its empirical foundation based on the Sentence Completion Test, which Loevinger designed to assess ego development, the theory has had a marked impact on research in adult development. For example, it has been applied in research on the relationships between ego development and cognitive development (King, Kitchener, Wood, & Davison, 1989) and between ego development and the coping strategies employed at different ages (Labouvie-Vief, Hakim-Larson, & Hobart, 1987).

Loevinger's theory is only one of several extensions and modifications of Erikson's model of psychological development. Another extension, proposed by Robert Peck (1968), is based on the results of clinical observations, case studies, and interviews of older adults. Specifically, Peck divided the "integrity versus despair" crisis of Erikson's old-age stage into three subcrises or conflicts. The first of these subcrises—ego differentiation versus role preoccupation —centers on whether the individual views him- or herself as a flexible, complex person who can perform several roles or is restricted to a single role activity. The second subcrisis of old age— body transcendence versus body preoccupation —is concerned with whether the individual is able to transcend the infirmities and unattractiveness of his or her own body and to value physical, mental, and social activities despite declining health. The third subcrisis —ego transcendence versus ego preoccupation—centers on whether the individual goes beyond his or her own ego or is constantly preoccupied with the self and cannot accept the reality of death.

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