Generativity Versus Stagnation

The syntonic quality of adulthood is generativity, defined as "the generation of new beings as well as new products and new ideas" (Erikson, 1982, p. 67). Generativity, which is concerned with establishing and guiding the next generation, includes the

Chapter 9 Erikson: Post-Freudian Theory 259

procreation of children, the production of work, and the creation of new tilings and ideas that contribute to the building of a better world.

People have a need not only to learn but also to histruct. This need extends beyond ones own children to an altruistic concern for other young people. Generativ-ity grows out of earlier syntonic qualities such as intimacy and identity. As noted earlier, hithnacy calls for the ability to fuse ones ego to that of another person without fear of losing it. This unity of ego identities leads to a gradual expansion of interests. Dining adulthood, one-to-one hithnacy is no longer enough. Other people, especially children, become part of ones concern. Instructing others in the ways of culture is a practice found in all societies. For the mature adult, this motivation is not merely an obligation or a selfish need but an evolutionary drive to make a contribution to succeeding generations and to ensure the continuity of human society as well.

The antithesis of generativity is self-absorption and stagnation. The generational cycle of productivity and creativity is crippled when people become too absorbed in themselves, too self-indulgent. Such an attitude fosters a pervadhig sense of stagnation. Some elements of stagnation and self-absorption, however, are necessary. Creative people must, at thnes, remain hi a dormant stage and be absorbed with themselves hi order to eventually generate new growth. The interaction of generativity and stagnation produces care, the basic strength of adulthood.

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