Generativity and Our Interconnected Generations

Generativity is a term coined by the psycho-analyst Erik K. Erikson,(1902-1994), who developed the concept as part of his Eight-Stages of Human Development in 1950. Generativity is not as well know as Erikson’s work on “identity Crisis” another term he coined and which has made its way into the common vernacular.

Generativity was a part of the 7th-Stage of Erikson’s theory and according to him occurred only during middle age. However, research since 1950, has shown the powers of generativity can be exhibited by people of various ages, although most often it does occur as one becomes more mature in age and understanding.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines generativity as a concern for people besides self and family that usually develops during middle age; especially : a need to nurture and guide younger people and contribute to the next generation. Erikson himself simply stated it as, “a concern for establishing and guiding the next generation.” In a more modern and expansive expression Dr. John Kotre has stated it as “creativity between the generations” which is expressed in limitless variations in the following four categories:

1) Biological – the act of making a child;

2) Parental – the act of raising a child;

3) Technical – the creation of tangible works that will maintain an existence beyond your life, (i.e., paintings, writings, or a business organization); and,

4) Societal – the ability to create societal change and/or reform, (i.e., Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., et. al.).

Because of the focus on impacting the next generation, an essential element of the generative process is that one must pass on or release whatever it is that they have created, in the case of a business enterprise it only becomes generative once the original creator passes the business on to another.

In our lives as we plot and plan our course, from our families to our art, it is very important that we are willing to let go of our creations in order to develop a generative effect. When you are raising a child, we aid the child in its development, in their forming their own identity and existence and we must eventually let them go in order for them to thrive. This begins slowly at first with the first time we leave them in another’s care, when we send them off to school and hopefully continues to progress until the point when they develop an independence and self-sustaining existence. Throughout history creators have continuously thwarted their generative powers by not letting go of their creations, or by letting go too soon or too late.

We are all aware of our biological/genealogical connections to parents, grandparents, etc. And the world continues to show us how we are globally connected in ever increasing and overlapping ways. What if anything in your life has generative qualities? Where would you like to have generativity that it currently does not exist? Now that you know a little more about generativity, how do you plan to increase your generative effects for the future?