Stages of Development

Loevinger’s Stages of Ego Development

Below is the model of human development that came out of research by psychologist Jane Loevinger.

As a student of human development, I have found that keeping these stages in mind, helps me understand my childrens’ behavior and to react more appropriately.  I ask myself, is this age appropriate behavior? Am I expecting him/her to behave in a way that is different from the stage they’re at? 

It’s difficult to put ages to these stages, but given “normal” circumstances, most individuals in the U.S. reach an overall cognitive level somewhere between self-aware and conscientious by the time they reach their 20’s.  Post-conventional stages if they are going to emerge, do so in adulthood.

As I use these in my parenting, I do not see the stages as rigid absolutes, but as guides to judge overall centers of gravity to help make better decisions when gauging behavior expectations.

Pre-Conventional Stages

(archaic—a proto 1st-person perspective)
No ego
Not Differentiated from the World
Self-Nonself Differentiation
Stability of Objects

(Egocentric—able to take a 1st-person perspective)
Curbed by Restraints, Rewards & Punishments
Others are Seen as What They Can Give
“Nice to Me” or “Mean to Me”
Physical but not Psychological Causation

(Ego-to-Ethnocentric—able to take a 1st- to 2nd-person perspective)
Anticipates Rewards & Punishments
First Self-Control
“Don’t Get Caught”
Externalize Blame
Opportunistic Hedonism

Conventional Stages

(Ethnocentric—able to take a 2nd-person perspective)
Take in Rules of the Group
No Self Apart from Others
Other’s Disapproval is Sanction
Not Only Fear of Punishment
Rules and Norms not Distinguished
Rejects Out-Group
Stereotypes Roles
Security = Belonging
Behaviours Judged Externally not by Intentions

(Ethnocentric—able to take a 2nd to 3rd person perspective)
Self Distinct from Norms & Expectations
First Inner Life
Banal Feelings Always in Reference to Others
Pseudo-Trait Conceptions
Modal Stage of Adults

(Worldcentric—able to take a 3rd-person perspective)
Goals and Ideals
Sense of Responsibility
Rules are Internalized
Guilt is From Hurting Another, not Breaking Rules
Having Self Apart from Group
Standards are Self-Chosen
Traits are Part of Rich Interior World
Standards Distinguished from Manners
Motives and not Just Actions
Sees Self from Other Point of View

Post-Conventional Stage

(worldcentric—able to take a 4th-person perspective)
Distancing from Role Identities
Subjective Experience as Opposed to Objective Reality
Greater Tolerance of Self & Others
Relationships Cause Dependency
Awareness of Inner Conflict
Inner Reality Vs. Outward Appearance
Psychological Causality and Development

(worldcentric — able to take a 4th/5th-person perspective)
Inner Conflicts of Needs Vs Duties
Polarity, Complexity, Multiple Facets
Integrate Ideas
Tolerate Ambiguity
Freeing from Conscience
Concern for Emotional Interdependence
Integrates Different Identities
How They Function in Different Roles

(worldcentric to kosmocentric—able to take a 4th/5th-person perspective)
Transcendence of Conflicts
Fully Worked Out Identity


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