Generativity and Erikson's "belief in the species"

Donna A. Van De Water*, Dan P. McAdams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Generativity is the concern for guiding and promoting the next generation through such creative behavior as parenting, teaching, mentoring, leading, and generating products and outcomes that benefit others. Erikson (1963) has argued that in order to be generative in adulthood, people must have a fundamental "belief in the species" or a faith that human progress is possible and worth working toward. The present study focuses on hope and trust concerning the self and others (Erikson's "belief in the species"). In addition, however, the study examines the relation between generativity and personality traits, in this case, dominance, leadership, self-absorption, and nurturance. A sample of 70 adults was administered (1) a series of self-report questionnaires converging on Erikson's idea of belief in the species, (2) a self-report scale assessing generativity, (3) measures of personality traits, and (4) two open-ended measures of generativity requiring subjects to describe life commitments and creative endeavors. The results provide modest support for Erikson's claim of a link between belief in the species and generativity, with significant positive correlations obtained (1) between self-report generativity and two measures of belief in species and (2) between generativity assessed through life commitments and one measure of belief in the species. In addition, the personality trait of nurturance was positively related to all three generativity measures. Problems and issues in the assessment of generativity are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-449
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Research in Personality
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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