Generativity vs stagnation (3 key differences)

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In this article we will be discussing Erik Erikson’s 7th Stage of psychosocial development- Generativity and Stagnation. 

We will also discuss Erikson’s psychosocial development theory and how each stage impacts an individual. 

What is Generativeiy vs Stagnation?

Generativity Vs Stagnation refers to the psychosocial conflict that an individual faces during the 7th stage of their development in their lifespan which occurs during one’s middle age- 40 to 65 years of age. 

In this stage, generativity refers to the generation of new ideas, new products- including children, and making a mark for ourselves onto this world by creating or nurturing things or other people that will last beyond our own lives or existence. 

Parenting is a significant part of this stage and it is one of the things we do as we develop at this stage- to nurture, guide, and care for another person.

Another aspect of this particular stage is giving back to the world- through our own children, through our work, and being involved in the community and organisations- developing a sense of being part of the bigger picture is an important aspect of this stage. 

On the flipside, if one does not develop to achieve a sense of generativity, they are at risk of becoming stagnant- where they lose direction of their lives and lack enthusiasm to further develop and make a mark for themselves. 

It is by going through this particular conflict at this stage, a person develops the of care- caring of others, of other ideas, of the future, and the future generations. 

According to Erikson, people who are successful at the generativity vs. stagnation stage of psychosocial development feel that they have contributed to the world to make it a better place.

People successful at this age are people who think they are contributing actively in their home and in their community. 

While those who fail at this age feel uninvolved and unproductive towards the world around them- they feel that they are unhappy and dissatisfied with their life in  general. 

What is generativity?

Generativity is one aspect of the conflict an individual faces during middlehood according to Erikson’s theory. 

Generativity in this context refers to the concern towards establishing and guiding the future generations- parenting being the medium to achieve this particular milestone. 

Generativity is also defined as ‘making your mark on the world’ by caring for others and accomplishing something beyond yourself for making this world a better place- by understanding that you are a piece of a much larger puzzle. 

This might include taking a mentor role at your workplace, making career decisions that are sustainable and ethical as well as growing your career and expanding your skillsets that might bring benefit for others. 

At this age you might also join or invest your time into doing things for others- parenting as well as taking care of your grandchildren, or volunteering to help others. 

Generativity also includes major personal development in the sense of commitment, productivity, interpersonal care and even creativity during your older adulthood. 

What is stagnation? 

Stagnation, according to Erikson, refers feeling unproductive and uninvolved in the process of making a mark of oneself onto the world. 

People who fail in this particular stage of psychosocial development experience a state of stagnation, loss of direction, and an overall feeling of being stuck. 

These people experience a lack of motivation in being involved with the world around them, parenting, mentoring, and giving back to the world. They fail to develop the virtue of caring. 

People who fail at this stage and experience stagnation are usually people who have failed to successfully complete the prior stages of intimacy and further back to role identification during their formative years.

These people have an underdeveloped sense of self and sometimes overblown self of narcissism. ‘Rejectivity’ is also a term used for severe stagnation by Erikson. Where people reject the world around them.

What are the Important tasks of Middle Adulthood?

Central tasks to middle adulthood in the generativity vs stagnation stage are those tasks which will help the person achieve generativity- to answer the question of “What can I do to make my life count?”

Tasks like healthy parenting, going back to scietu, mentoring others, and oval engaging with the world around them, is important at this sayge. 

If a person does most of these tasks he will achieve the virtue of this stage and feel fulfilled. This stage is successfully completed if the person tries to fulfill the need for generativity by doing some tasks and actually doing it for the sake of others without being selfish and careless. 

What are the Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development?

Psychoanalytic psychologist Erik Erikson maintained the theory that personality develops in a predetermined order- an order that consists of 8 stages from infancy to death. 

This particular sequence of development is known as the Psychosocial development stages which he believes to determine the outcome of personality. 

According to his theory, each stage is presented with a conflict which is psychological in nature and this conflict depends on the needs of the person vs the needs of the larger world.

He notes that completion of each stage determines the outcome of one’s personality- if one completes the stages successfully, it leads to the development of a healthy personality and the acquisition of basic virtues which are characteristic strengths to resolve crises in each stage.

The theory also posits that failure to successfully complete a stage can result in a reduced ability to complete further stages and lead to unhealthier personality. However, these stages can later be completed and the crisis be resolved later. 

Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development include:

Trust vs. Mistrust

This stage begins at birth and lasts through around one year of age where interactions with others must lead to the development of trust through reliable care and affection.

Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of hope and the infant can have hope that other people can be a source of support when they are faced with a crisis. 

Failing to acquire the virtue of hope will lead to the development of fear and carry this mistrust to other relationships and struggle with insecurities and anxiety. 

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

Autonomy versus shame and doubt is the second stage which occurs between the ages of 18 months to approximately 3 years. 

According to Erikson, children at this stage are focused on developing personal control over their own body and a sense of independence as they walk around and interact with people other than their immediate parents. 

Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of will born out of encouragement and perceived support to explore more and become independent. They also become more confident in their own abilities to survive in the world alone. 

If they fail at this stage due to over controlling parents and no encouragement to assert themselves, they might become overly dependent upon others, lack self-esteem, and feel a sense of shame or doubt in their abilities.

Initiative vs. Guilt

Initiative versus guilt is the third stage of Erik Erikson’s theory where children assert themselves more frequently.

Children at this age- 3 to 6 years old play and do other social interaction with other people who are of their age or older and learn or explore their interpersonal skills. 

If given this opportunity and they are successful, children develop a sense of initiative to lead and feel secure in their ability to make decisions.

When they fail at this stage, and their assertiveness or inquisitiveness is shut down by adults and other peers- then the child may have feelings of guilt for “being a nuisance”.

Too much guilt can make the child more socially awkward, develop a lower sense of self esteem, and inhibit creativity. Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of purpose.

Industry vs. Inferiority

Erikson’s fourth psychosocial crisis, involving industry (competence) vs. Inferiority occurs between the ages of five and twelve.

Here they are at the age of learning under a teacher in a formal setting. Peer group plays an important role in the development of the child’s self esteem. 

If children are encouraged for their initiative, they begin to feel industrious or competent in their own abilities and thus, feel confident in their ability to achieve goals. 

If this does not happen, then the child begins to feel inferior- doubting his own abilities and therefore leading to a lower sense of self and lower self esteem. 

Similarly if the child is not encouraged to develop specific skills they feel society is demanding (e.g., being athletic or outgoing and social) then they may develop a sense of Inferiority.

Identity vs. Role Confusion

The fifth stage of Erik Erikson’s theory identity vs. role confusion, and it occurs during adolescence, from about 12-18 years. 

During this stage, adolescents search for a sense of self through an intense exploration of personal values, beliefs, and goals.

It is during this stage that the adolescent will try to find out exactly who he or she is in terms of the sexual and the occupational.

Erikson believed that it is at this age that the person begins to experience the “identity crisis”-a sense of self. 

Identity crisis involves the physical self, personality, potential roles and occupations. It is influenced by culture and historical trends- and the peers around the individual. 

If a person is successful in this stage, they will be able to proceed with their other stages with surety and the ability to establish healthy boundaries between them and the world as well as learn acceptance of themselves and others. 

Intimacy vs. Isolation

Intimacy versus isolation is the sixth stage of Erik Erikson’s theory which takes place during young adulthood between the ages of approximately 18 to 40 yrs. 

During this stage, the major conflict is forming intimate, loving relationships with other people. A person who is able to share themselves with others more intimately, learning how to maintain long term commitments with others apart from family is considered successful, earning the virtue of Love.

Successful completion of this stage can result in happy relationships and a sense of commitment and belongingness. 

Failure at this stage will lead to avoiding intimacy, fearing commitment and relationships which can lead to isolation, loneliness, and depression. 

Generativity vs. Stagnation

Generativity versus stagnation is the seventh of eight stages of Erik Erikson’s theory which takes place during middle adulthood (ages 40 to 65 yrs).

During this stage a person experiences a need to create or nurture things that will outlast them, often having mentees- in the form of their own offspring- or creating positive changes that will benefit other people.

Success in this stage leads to feelings of usefulness and accomplishment and earning the virtue of care while failure results in shallow involvement in the world where people feel disconnected or uninvolved with society as a whole. 

Ego Integrity vs. Despair

Ego integrity versus despair is the final stage of Erik Erikson’s stage theory and it begins at approximately age 65 and ends at death.

This stage is full of contemplation about personal accomplishments and regrets. A person who is able to reflect on their life and having accomplished all stages successfully might feel satisfied and thus develop the virtue of wisdom. 

This wisdom will be what helps them accept their mortality, the life lived, and accept death. However, Individuals who reflect on their regrets and feel like they have not achieved their goals will experience feelings of bitterness and despair.


In this article we have discussed  Erik Erikson’s 7th Stage of psychosocial development- Generativity and Stagnation. 

We have also discussed Erikson’s psychosocial development theory and how each stage impacts an individual. 


McLeod, S. A. (2018, May 03). Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. Simply Psychology.

FAQ about Generativity vs Stagnation

What are some of the elements for a positive outcome at the Generativity vs Stagnation stage?

A person who is involved in tasks for betterment of future generations or nurturing children is known to have all the elements for positive outcomes of this stage. 

How could care for the future lead to a positive outcome?

An adult who is concerned about issues like the future of this planet and its environment and the world we are going to leave for future generations is doing the seventh stage of generativity vs stagnation completely right. 

What is an example of generativity?

Generativity is a concern for other people, especially for those younger than us. 

Processes that can be generative in many ways, including:

  • Parenthood
  • Volunteering
  • teaching and mentoring
  • neighborhood and community activism
  • our career.

How is generativity achieved?

Generativity is achieved through caring for others as well as creating and accomplishing things that make the world a better place.

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

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